Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TO ROME WITH LOVE

Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Allen,  
Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill,
Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig




Another Woody Allen film that takes us beyond his beloved New York, this time in vibrant Rome, Italy.  His previous European set series of movies took us to London ("Match Point"), then Madrid ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") and Paris ("Midnight in Paris").

As usual a smorgasbord of actors and actresses are cast to portray various characters which come alive through the fertile imagination of Allen who wrote, produced and directed the movie. Italian actors (Ornella Muti, Roberto Benigni) as well as young and old(er) Hollywood stars are part of the ensemble. Their roles include an American architect on a nostalgic trip to relive his past, a young Italian couple on their honeymoon and a married couple in town to meet the family of their daughter's Italian fiance.

I usually identify which role (either male or female) would best epitomize the characteristics of Woody Allen.  S/he is usually the angst ridden neurotic who tends to talk in a rapid manner, analyzing every single anxiety. It's usually accompanied with jerky hand gestures when s/he wants to emphasize a point.

Here, it was played by Jesse Eisenberg as Jack, the American architecture student in Rome who gets infatuated with Monica (Ellen Page), a friend of his girlfriend.  In some ways, I'd say that Monica was the female version of Woody Allen in her role as the annoyingly flaky yet somewhat  smart struggling actress who visits Rome after a messy break up.

It is always fascinating to see Rome as the setting for any movie and it puts me in a nostalgic mood.  Yet I'd have to say that among the Woody Allen movies set in Europe, this film was his weakest so far. 

Even though he paid homage to the Fellini era of Italian films and also to the Italian type of gag comedies, some of the stories lacked a certain cohesiveness that would nicely tie up all the loose ends.  Each of the 4 independent stories in the film could merit a full length movie on its own.  And there lies the main flaw of "To Rome with Love" as I got the impression that each plot could have benefited with the infusion of more depth and dimension.

Despite my disappointment, I remain a loyal Woody Allen fan and would still watch his films. More so if they are set in such cultured locales.  I end by quoting the words of one of my fave Beatles song.
"There are places I remember all my life.
Though some have changed. 
Some forever, not for better.
Some have gone, and some remain.  
All these places have their moments.
In my life, I loved them all."

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