It looks like the whole quirky Americans trying to wrestle with Love abroad “thing” has run out of steam. And charm. And meaning.
There’s no other way to come to terms with Woody Allen’s latest film, To Rome With Love, which is neither here nor there, nor really has anything to do with the nature of the beast we call “Love”. Despite a star-heavy cast and multiple storylines that should resonate at least part of the time, the movie really just makes you want to roam the cobblestone back alleys of Rome while avoiding eye contact with prostitutes who entice you with mid-grade Italian wine. It’s a sordid postcard on celluloid, and one that Allen should be paying full postage for.
The movie is certainly likeable and even has the occasional moment you wish could linger on (mostly courtesy Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg) but the focus of the film is on the older characters who play as cynical old frumps that don’t have time for anything or anyone. That’s a tough hand to play when in search of Amore.
The movie also tries its hand at deciphering the nature of celebrity, as in the story of Leopoldo Pisanello (Benigni) who finds himself suddenly famous and for no good reason. This storyline alone would have sufficed for a full feature, but instead he has to jostle with a bunch of clueless Americans (Baldwin, Eisenberg, Gerwig and Page) who are by turns likable and funny but ultimately inscrutable. Penelope Cruz, for those who are curious, is forced to play a hooker who is passed off as a respectable man’s respectable wife because . . . well, because I think Allen wanted her in the movie and couldn’t find any other use for her. It’s a waste of her talent, and I hope she doesn’t sign up for any more Woody Allen romantic comedies.
Better luck next time, Woody. And please, enough with the European fixation. Yes, we get that they’re not nearly so uptight as Americans when it comes to sex and sexuality, and your own personal dramas don’t upset them in the way that they do us back in the States, but that’s really no excuse to make a movie.