A comedy of Romance, self achievement, imaginativeness, and the quandaries of a select few people in the always colorful and beautiful city of Rome.
Writer: Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Woody Allen, Penélope Cruz and Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
As I walked into my local movie house to see Woody Allen’s latest “To Rome with Love” I was hoping for, but not expecting something as wonderful as 2011’s “Midnight in Paris”. After all when a man has written and directed a feature length film in almost every year since 1967, you can’t expect him to strike gold every time. I pretty much got what I expected with Woody Allen’s latest love letter to Rome. A very witty, enjoyable story delivering some engaging characters and situations peppered with hilarious lines that only Woody Allen can write.
It is a potpourri of a movie, there is not a single plot. There are 4 plots. Earlier this year I watched the amazing American Masters PBS Documentary titled; “Woody Allen: A Documentary” and in one moment he shows his notebooks, filled with words, ideas, jokes and stories scribbled on page after page, in notebook after notebook sprawled across his bed. He explains that this is where his movies come from. As he sat down on his type writer to scribe “To Rome with Love” (He uses a typewriter for all his works to this day) I picture him ripping 4 different pages out from 4 different notebooks and figuring out a way to make them work all in the same movie.
He does manage to make them all work, mainly because he doesn’t try to intertwine them or involve them in one another. He tells them simply as separate occurrences that happen in Rome throughout a small period of time.
My personal favorite of them all is the story that focuses on Roberto Benigni’s charecter. Benigni of “Life is Beautiful” fame plays the character Leopoldo who is introduced as the most average man in all of Rome. He has job, a wife, kids, and one morning he wakes up and he is one of the most famous men in the world. It is a pointed commentary from Allen about the state of Celebrity in this day and age that is satirical and especially interesting coming from a man who has indeed been a celebrity for most of his life and not particularly enjoyed a minute of it.
The other plot which was especially engaging for me was the story that follows the young couple Jack and Sally, (Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig) a student and an architect living abroad in the City of Love. Their love, however, is predictably going to be tested when Sally’s friend Monica – “the name even sounds slutty” – is bringing her promiscuity to come and visit. The only conscience that Jack has is portrayed by a supernatural, successful architect names John, played very capably by Alec Baldin. Although John exists in the movies reality( when they meet Jack recognizes him and is aware of his architectural work) he is most likely portraying the “future Jack” and appears and disappears unexplainably in and out of the conversations of the group, sometimes being recognized only by Jack, other times by everyone. It is a hilarious suspension of truth that Woody writes in and leaves for the audience to accept.
The other stories to complete the medley of a movie involve a young engaged couple that get separated from one another and encounter prostitute (Penelope Cruz) and the movie star of her dreams. The other involves Allen’s Character, a former Opera producer encouraging his daughter’s future father in-law to become a professional opera singer who sings exclusively from the shower on the stage.
The more I think about the movie the more I like it. I originally compared it to the likes of “You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and “Whatever Works” and in the hierarchy of Woody Allen movies, that is where it belongs. But that still means it’s a pretty fantastic movie.