To Rome With Love – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on September 9, 2012 | No Comments
PRODUCER – Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Giampaolo Letta, Faruk Alatan
DIRECTOR – Woody Allen
WRITER – Woody Allen
CAST – Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Antonio Albessi, Roberto Benigni, Alessandra Mastronardi, Lino Guanciale
There is almost none who pay tributes to cities like Woody Allen does. After last year’s charming ‘Midnight in Paris’ Allen, one of the most prolific directors of all times, explores romance in Italy among what are men and women typical of the Allenian universe.
Constructed around four sets of couples and families, it is as much a comment on the absurdities of modern life in all its existential conflicts woven through the hallmark expression of romance and sex. There is Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), a bathroom singer (like all of us) made into a sensation by an ex-celebrity manager Jerry (Woody Allen) who takes his talents to the stage alongwith the bathroom because that is the only way to battle his performance anxiety. Then there is Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a clerk and non-entity who suddenly finds himself a celebrity and living the high society life, but once gone craves it. Around the corner is Jack and John (also the narrator), the latter visiting Italy after decades and who decides to hang around with Jack and his girlfriend Sally. Sally’s best friend Monica (Ellen Page) is visiting them and her carefree spirit, which John rightly recognises as intellectual posturing attracts Jack enough to leave Sally for. Until he realises how shallow Monica really is. And then there is Antonio and Milly, a newly-wed couple come to explore a posh business proposition Antonio’s uncles have offered. Both get separated, with Antonio accompanying a prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz) as his wife to the business affair and Milly having an adventure with a movie star and a burglar in one afternoon, both learning about sexual liberation.
Like so many of Allen’s films, To Rome With Love lays bare the ideas of romance, fidelity, sex and relationships we carry with ourselves, hollowing some and reconstructing some. Allen’s romantics are either fools (like Jack) or delusional (like Monica). Yet, there is always a sane voice, the voice of sense and balance that despite Allen’s cynical and sometimes even pessimistic view of the world finds its way in his narrative by compulsion. It is almost like he brings balance to our natural world of whims and fancies with this voice of reason. Jack, Anna and even Roberto’s chauffeur (Sergio Solli) represents this voice of sanity in an increasingly crumbling world.
The film is full of whimsy with each character as talkative and self-obsessed as all the fools of the Allenian universe generally are. It has elements of Allen’s earlier career, of the 80’s where he made delightful nonsense like Bananas and Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and smooth satire of what must seem an incredibly absurd millennium to this septuagenarian (as, at times it seems to us as well). He charms us with an Italy bathed in golden light, presenting the Colosseum with magnificence and the Baths with a mystery accompanied with acoustic music invoking Italy’s ancient and romantic charm. But there is this distinct attempt not to beautify the city suggesting that somewhere much of the romance his characters feel for it, is all in their heads.
Unlike some of Allen’s best works, this one doesn’t aim to make a strong comment. Subtle satire with a tickly underside will do. It is in the character’s journeys, losses and gains and sheer experiences that Allen presents the ennui of modern-day love and life. He does that with a humour less sharp and more facile nonetheless as enjoyable making the performances of his ensemble cast seem effortless and breezy. The dialogues are missing a certain Allenian smartness and the tragic or ironical consequences of his flawed characters are much subdued. Having said that it is very difficult to not enjoy a Woody Allen film and To Rome With Love is no different.