The “Woodman”gets around: first London, then Barcelona, last year was Paris and now, ah—the Eternal City. Nice work if you can get it-huh? I came to To Rome With Love with low expectations, hearing the pre-release buzz and reading earlier reviews of Woody Allen’s voyage to La Bella Italia. I need not have feared.
Okay, the latest might not be the greatest and does not come close to matching the brilliant, witty and altogether satisfying Midnight in Paris, but it’s more than good enough to warrant a visit. If you can sneak in a café latte or cappuccino under your summer togs, you’ll be prepared for an often hilarious escape from the mid-summer doldrums and heat plaguing much of the USA now. You know, “when in Rome” and all that.
- To Rome With Love is playing at the Westlake Regency.
The film plunges right into the Roma of picture postcards; what else but the Coliseum complete with ”dancing” traffic cop plunk in the middle of swarming autos going every which way but the right way. Cliché yes, but the image is a perfect metaphor for the cross-current of multiple plots that the writer/director provides.
We first see Allen himself as Jerry, seated in the cabin of an Alitalia jet next to his tolerant but high-strung wife, played by Judy Davis. True to form, the auteur is all New York angst-ridden intellectual neurotic, worrying about the plane crashing. A semi-retired opera impresario, Jerry’s story is one of five that occur in To Rome but interestingly, and unlike other multiple-story films, the elements are presented in random order and, in fact, often in different time periods. In the hands of a master like Woody Allen, this works to great effect and keeps us viewers on our toes. It’s fun all the way.
Best story-line for this reviewer was Roberto Benigni (Leopoldo) as a “typical” Roman office worker who is seen repeating his morning routine of having breakfast with the wife and kids, going to work, coming home, etc. ad infinitum. One day, for no apparent reason, he is surrounded by a horde of paparazzi, who pursue him at work, at home, even watching him shave in his bathroom, all with animated commentary that is truly hilarious.
Remember, it was in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita of 1960, set in Rome, that the term paparazzi was first invented and, here, Allen is clearly paying homage to another great master of cinema while brilliantly skewering the 15 minutes of fame epidemic (think Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, etc.) that shows no signs of abating.
All of us who have marveled at our voices while singing in the shower will howl during the scenes involving Allen’s daughter’s prospective father-in-law Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), and I won’t be a spoiler for the scene of his recital debut: that alone is worth the price of admission.
The large cast assembled are all top notch, among them Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and Alec Baldwin who clearly relishes his role as a sort of one-man Greek chorus or ghost-mentor to the young architect of Jesse Eisenberg.
It is the city of Rome that ultimately shines here, crowded, noisy, bawdy and altogether gorgeous. Where’s next, Woody? Vienna? Amsterdam? Berlin?
My passport is ready. I’ll be there!
Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.