After heart achingly brilliant parodies, words tinged with comic genius and fables of almost religious proportions, this, is what we’re left with? Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page, of Juno fame, fumbling around awkwardly in some ancient Roman ruin with all the believability of a new reality TV show pilot?
It was only yesteryear that Woody Allen unveiled among us a surprising success in the very sweet and wonderful Midnight in Paris, still not a match for his past accomplishments, but entertaining and charming none the less. Why oh why must he sour that with To Rome with Love???
If that dear typewriter of his were to implode with writers block or sheer tapping frustration, we would be left, all alone, with this average, confusing piece of work.
Set in Rome, surprise! Opening with a less than hearty monologue by a traffic policeman , who is to be our narrator for the entirety of the film. His opening dialogue sets the film up for what will be a slew of frustrating and awkward performances. Unsurprisingly, Penelope Cruz, is wonderfully convincing and amusing as a saucy Italian prostitute, we won’t mention that she is basically parodying the original Italian seductress Sophia Loren without so much as a whorish shrug.
Otherwise, we have a cast of the usual Woody Allen misfits. The simple, confused working father played by Roberto Benigni, the imaginary friend/mentor played by a very charming Alec Baldwin, the frustrated and unforgiving wife played by Judy Davis and then of course Woody himself, playing himself, lamenting over the same themes of death and life. Which is perfectly acceptable, however, a convincing enough story behind the lamenting is usually required. The actors appear to be so crucially aware that they are indeed acting a in a Woody Allen film, you can’t help but notice this acknowledgement within their performances, each tends to become a slightly heightened and neurotic version of themselves, as if jumping straight into a jelly mold shaped by Woody himself.
To get caught up in the ridiculousness of the in between stories seems almost pointless, as they are only ever carrier pigeons in Allen’s films.
In all, a disappointing film, uninspiring and apart from the occasional charms and winks provided by Baldwin, Cruz and unknown Alessandra Mastronardi, what we’re left with is a cast of fumbling and disconnected characters skimming Rome’s magnificent edges.