In Rome, a young architect (Eisenberg) falls for his girlfriend (Gerwig)’s visiting friend (Page), despite the wise advice of a man (Baldwin) who knows better. Elsewhere, a retired opera director (Allen) and his wife (Davis) meet their daughter (Pill)’s family, discovering that the father (Armiliato) possesses an incredible voice. Meanwhile, a couple of newlyweds (Tiberi, Mastronardi) are separated in the city, and an average man (Benigni) becomes an overnight celebrity for no reason at all…
While last year’s charming fantasy romance Midnight In Paris saw Woody Allen return to form, To Rome With Love sees him unable to maintain it. Despite opting for the same surreal, slightly-fantastical vibe which worked so well there, Woody’s trip to the Eternal City doesn’t yield the same winning results that his other late-career European jaunts have (see also Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona). In truth, there are moments of insight and a few good lines peppered throughout (many coming from Woody himself, making his first on-camera appearance since 2005′s Scoop), but overall the movie is like Allen’s post-’90s career – very hit-and-miss.
Indeed, there is a lighthearted, farcical vibe which occasionally works (even with a score which sounds like Abba covering the ‘Allo ‘Allo! theme tune), yet too often proceedings feel rushed, uneven and far from polished. The real problem, of course, is that there are far too many characters and separate storylines going on, all of which combines to give To Rome With Love a frustrating stop-start quality. Attempting to tell four different stories (none of which are connected to each other), Allen tries to cover too much and ends up not really covering anything at all.
While each thread is clearly attempting to say something (such as the one which pokes fun at the fleeting, instant and disposable nature of celebrity), not all are successful (such as the newlyweds one – which then splits itself into two parts!). This is a real shame, too, as the arc where Jesse Eisenberg’s neurotic young man is advised by a been-there, done-that Alec Baldwin (who may or may not be Eisenberg’s older self?) makes some good observations about the benefits of hindsight and experience. Arguably, that would’ve made a better film on its own. Eisenberg, meanwhile, makes for a great Woody Allen substitute, while Judy Davis is great as Allen’s psychologist wife and Penélope Cruz is good fun as a firecracker prostitute.
While last year’s charming fantasy romance Midnight In Paris saw Woody Allen return to form, To Rome With Love sees him unable to maintain it. Attempting to tell four different stories, Allen tries to cover too much and ends up not really covering anything at all.