Saturday, August 24, 2013

To Rome with Love

Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen, To Rome with Love is a multi-layered film with four different stories about people living or vacationing in Rome, Italy. Among these stories include a funeral director who unknowingly has singing talent, a man who becomes a celebrity for mysterious reasons, a couple on their honeymoon, and an architect who guides a young man into the world of love. All of which play into the fascination of the city. Also starring Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Ornella Muti, and Penelope Cruz. To Rome with Love is an interesting but very lackluster film from Woody Allen.

The film revolves around four different stories all set in the city of Rome as it plays to the desires of various people and how it can be a bit overwhelming as well as the realization that not everything is as it’s cracked up to be. One story involves a revered architect (Alec Baldwin) who meets a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) who is living in the old apartment the architect lived as a student as he observes the young man’s obsession with a neurotic actress (Ellen Page). The second story is about an American woman who meets and falls for an Italian man as they announced their engagement where the woman’s father learns that his future son-in-law’s father has a gift for singing opera. The third story revolves around an ordinary business clerk (Roberto Benigni) who suddenly becomes a celebrity as he’s baffled by his new fame. The fourth and final story is about a couple who come to Rome for their honeymoon where the bride is suddenly lost in the city forcing the groom to hire a hooker (Penelope Cruz) to pretend to be his wife for his relatives.

While Woody Allen creates a very interesting concept that revolves around these four different stories that sort of cross-cuts from one another. The result as a whole is very messy. There’s parts in some of these stories that are funny and exciting but there’s also moments where it kind of drags and such that sort of loses steam. The story about the funeral director who only sings in the shower is quite interesting as it has a lot of humor which includes Allen playing the American girl’s father but the humor loses steam late in the story. The story about the architect guiding this young man about his love life is very troubled due to the writing where it becomes unclear where the architect is real or he’s just acting as a Greek chorus.

The story about this business clerk’s sudden new fame is also funny but it gets ridiculous as it goes on where some of the humor is forced. The segment about the newlywed couple who each venture into different journeys in Rome where the groom unexpectedly has a hooker hang out with his rich relatives while the bride spends time with a film actor is definitely the best of the four. All of these all play into people being fascinated by the riches and cultures of Rome yet it would all play to the idea that not everyone can endure all of these wonders as some just prefer something much simpler.

Allen’s direction is quite unique in the way he presents Rome as he makes it a major character in the film. Yet, it starts off with a very beautiful montage of cars driving through the streets of Rome where the camera stops on this traffic policeman (Pierluigi Marchionne) who comments about the wonders of Rome. Allen does create some dazzling compositions that plays to the beauty of the city as well as some moments where he wanted to keep things naturally funny. Yet, the script’s drawbacks does drag the story where Allen has a hard time keeping up with the momentum of some of the humor where some of it feels forced and unfocused. While the segment about the funeral director who can sing opera has some very spectacular moments including the staging of his operas where sings in a shower. It doesn’t do enough to make the film more engaging than it needs to be despite some of the moments in the newlywed couple segment. Overall Allen creates a very incoherent and underwhelming film about life in Rome.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it is filled with some gorgeous images of the city in the day and night as well as some of the nighttime interior scenes. Editor Alisa Lepselter does nice work with the editing in creating some lively montages while playing up to the film‘s unique narrative structure with some very inspired transitions. Production designer Anne Seibel, with set decorator Raffaella Giovannetti and art director Luca Trachino, does excellent work with the set pieces from the hotels and homes the characters stay at to the staging of the operas.

Costume designer Sonia Grande does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the red dress Cruz‘s hooker character wears. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound to play up some of the atmosphere of the locations including the sound of the funeral director singing in the shower at his home. The film’s wonderful soundtrack is filled with a lot of different blend of music ranging from jazz, classical, opera, and some Italian pop tunes that include various renditions of Volare.

The casting by Juliet Taylor, Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, and Beatrice Kruger is amazing for the ensemble that is created for this film as it includes some small appearances from Riccardo Scamarcio as a hotel thief who tries to rob a movie star, Ornella Muti as a famous Italian actress, Antonio Albanese as the revered actor Luca whom the newlywed bride Milly is charmed by, Cecilia Capriotti as a sexy secretary who sleeps with Leopoldo over his fame, Monica Nappo as Leopoldo’s very simple wife, Lino Guanciale as a man Jack tries to set Monica up that would fuel his jealousy, famed Roman newscaster Cristiana Palazzoni as herself, and Pierluigi Marchionne playing himself as a charming traffic policeman. In the singing funeral director segment, Fabio Armiliato is great as Giancarlo as a simple funeral director with a great tenor voice who is reluctant to become an opera singer.

Flavio Parenti is terrific as Giancarlo’s son Michelangelo as is Alison Pill as Michelangelo’s American fiancee Hayley who tries to defend her father for what he wants to do. Judy Davis is pretty good as Hayley’s mother despite the fact that her character doesn’t get to do much while Woody Allen is funny as Hayley’s father who tries to launch Giancarlo’s career much to the chagrin of Michelangelo. Alec Baldwin is excellent as the revered architect who observes Jack’s fascination with Monica while giving Jack advice on what not to do. Jesse Eisenberg is quite fine as Jack as a young architect who falls for Monica. Greta Gerwig is alright as Jack’s girlfriend Sally though is quite underused while Ellen Page has her moments as Monica though the script doesn’t allow her to make her character more interesting as she’s just this neurotic actress who is kind of a poser.

Roberto Benigni is superb as a clerk who deals with his newfound celebrity where Benigni brings a lot of humor to his role as a man baffled by this new sense of fame. Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi are wonderful as the newlywed couple Antonio and Milly who both take on unexpected journeys into Rome. Finally, there’s Penelope Cruz in a remarkable performance as the prostitute Anna who pretends to be Antonio’s wife while giving him advice on love and such as it’s a very lively performance from Cruz.

To Rome with Love is a very messy and often incoherent film from Woody Allen despite the beauty of its location and some funny moments from some of its cast including Roberto Benigni and Penelope Cruz. While it is definitely a lesser film from Allen, there are moments that showcase that he still has a few things to say no matter how overbearing it can be. In the end, To Rome with Love is a disappointing film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra's Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

© thevoid99 2013


Big Screen Small Words said...

To Rome With Love was a disappointing and messy film, despite its cast. I found some parts enjoyable, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested. I found the stories quite random, and some parts were enjoyable (I liked the Opera scene, although it felt repetitive in the end), but it wasn't enough to keep me interested. I agree with you on Jesse Eisenberg's story arc, and the newlyweds segment seemed to be the only stable story, not losing its momentum.

thevoid99 said...

Yeah, I like the cast but it wasn't consistent enough to make it into a really engaging film. The newlywed segment was the best of the four.