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TO ROME WITH LOVE (director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Darius Khondji; editor: Alisa Lepselter; cast: Woody Allen (Jerry), Alec Baldwin (John), Roberto Benigni (Leopoldo Pisanello), Penélope Cruz (Anna), Judy Davis (Phyllis), Jesse Eisenberg (Jack), Greta Gerwig (Sally), Ellen Page (Monica), Alison Pill (Hayley), Flavio Parenti (Michelangelo), Alessandro Tiberi (Antonio), Alessandra Mastronardi (Milly), Fabio Armiliato (Giancarlo), Antonio Albanese (Luca Salta); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Letty Aronson/Stephen Tenenbaum/Giampaolo Letta /Faruk Alatan; Sony Pictures Classics; 2012)

“There’s enough of Woody’s familiar shticks to please his regular audience.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An amusing fluffy postcard tourist film by Woody Allen (“Small Time Crooks”/”The Purple Rose of Cairo”/”Stardust Memories”), that features several unconnected stories thatall have false endings.Though all the stories are weak or unconvincing and the comedy is uneven, there’s enough of Woody’s familiar shticks to please his regular audience.

The main vignette has the kvetchy retired opera director and promoter Jerry (Woody Allen) and his long-suffering wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) leaving NYC to vacation in Rome and meet their college-aged daughter Hayley (Alison Pill), who met in Rome a handsome Italian leftist lawyer Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti) and is planning to marry him. When Jerry learns that Michelangelo’s mortician father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato, opera tenor) loves to sing opera while showering, he comes out of retirement to be his manager. But learns Giancarlo is only comfortable singing in the shower, so Jerry has to think out of the box to get him to perform on the stage.

Another vignette has a newlywed country bumpkin couple (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) honeymooning in Rome and the groom’s conservative connected business relatives giving the upstarts a new lease on life with a wonderful job opportunity in their business in Rome, but the couple is separated and somehow the prostitute Anna (Penélope Cruz) ends up with the groom and the married womanizing movie star Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese) ends up in his hotel room with the bride.

The American John (Alec Baldwin) is a recognized successful commercial architect on vacation with friends, who thirty years ago had a blast living in Rome. Walking alone to revisit his old haunts John encounters a young American architecture student, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who is living in Rome with his nice girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig). When Sally’s kooky aspiring actress girlfriend Monica (Ellen Page) arrives to stay with the couple after breaking up with her boyfriend, John sticks around in an invisible form to advise Jack that Monica is a temptress, superficial, an intellectual poser and not for him. It seems Jack reminds John of when he was young and foolish, and made mistakes in love matters as Jack is about to do in falling for Monica’s act and is foolishly contemplating having an affair with her.

The worst vignette was the one that starred Roberto Benigni. It wastrying to say something about a society that idolizes celebrity. But it failed to go anywhere because it never had much of a story or elicited much comedy. Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) is the mousy average man in Rome, who is a well-adjusted ordinary married man, raising children and working at an unremarkable job as a clerk. When Leopoldo is suddenly discovered by reporters as the ideal average man and over night becomes a TV star and household name, as viewers are interested in details about his banal life and want to know such things as what he ate for breakfast. With his popularity on TV, Leopoldo’s elevated into celebrity status and his life changes to the point where he loses his privacy as reporters follow his every move, beautiful women beg to sleep with him, and he’s given star treatment at restaurants and at movie premières. When his 15 minutes of fame ends, Leopoldo has some difficulty adjusting again to being an ordinary schnook when he no longer gets all the attention from the swarming paparazzi.

The location shots of the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum and the singing of Volare at the film’s beginning and its end, tells you all you want to know of how far off the beaten path tourist guide Woody dares to venture in his love note to Rome.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”