daniel cohen reviews the latest from woody allen…
Plot: Follows four different stories involving love, fame, misunderstanding, and temptation…and it’s all set in Rome.
It’s bad enough when you have one movie that goes no where, but Woody Allen gives us a real bargain. That’s right…four pointless stories all at once! The problem with this film isn’t that it goes nowhere, but that it takes the longest road possible to get there. This is boring, repetitive, and most important of all, not funny. First off, setting the film in Rome has no point. This could have taken place anywhere. But what really ticks me off is that these stories don’t intertwine at all. And that’s what makes concurrent storytelling compelling — it’s waiting for them to intersect. Look at a film like American Graffiti, the classic example of how to do this right. Multiple storylines, but they all run through each other at some point. It never happens in To Rome with Love. Remember that classic Simpsons episode, “22 Short Films about Springfield”? Those stories intersected more than this. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a minor complaint. If these stories were interesting, I could let it slide. But trust me when I tell you, they are anything but.
So like I said, we got four different plots going on. Two of them suck, one of them is passable, and the other is halfway decent. Let’s talk about the halfway decent one first. Alison Pill plays Hayley, a young woman visiting Rome, and who falls in love with Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Her parents Jerry (Woody Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis) come to visit so they can meet Michelangelo and his parents. Jerry, a retired music manager of sorts, discovers Michelangelo’s father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) is a talented singer, and Jerry wants to manage him. This manages to include the one clever idea this movie has going for it. Without giving too much away, it involves singing in the shower. But that’s about it. The rest of the story is ‘whatever.’ It felt like Allen had this one clever idea, but unfortunately felt the need to stretch it out into one fully fledged story. The biggest problem is with Allen’s acting. He’s way too Woody Allen to the point where he’s a Saturday morning cartoon. The very first scene with his character is him being neurotic about airplane turbulence. Wow…really, Woody?
But at least this storyline had some good moments. The others are dry as hell. We focus on a young couple, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Sally (Greta Gerwig). Sally’s carefree, just-broke-up-with-her-boyfriend best friend Monica (Ellen Page) comes to town. Uh-oh…I wonder what’s going to happen here. Twenty boring scenes later, the predictable outcome finally takes place. To try and spice it up though, they add Alec Baldwin to the story. I won’t spoil what his role is, but he adds absolutely nothing. At least Eisenberg, Page, and Baldwin, who are all extremely talented, are trying their best with weak material. The one who looks like she doesn’t want to be there is Greta Gerwig, an actress I’ve just never been a big fan of.
The other two stories are truly terrible and lifeless. One of them involves a husband (Alessandro Tiberi) and wife (Alessandra Mastronardi) getting lost and separated that is so uninteresting, I don’t even feel like rehashing it. It’s terrible, and annoyingly uses the same music cue over and over and over again. The last story is about a normal everyday guy (Roberto Benigni) who randomly becomes famous. This story just rehashes the same joke over and over and over again to the point where I wanted to bang my head against the wall.
What also spun my dreidel in frustration are the endings to these things. First off, in three of the tales, the main characters all commit the same misdeed, but no one is punished for it. In fact, one of the stories even tries to make the case that it was a good thing this ‘misdeed’ happened. For me personally, that just pissed me off. And even though the endings all reach logical conclusions, they just aren’t interesting to make a case for a near two hour movie. The story involving Woody Allen’s character was kind of a funny ending, but it still doesn’t change the fact it could have been better as a solid eight minute Saturday Night Live sketch.
At the end of the day, To Rome With Love was simply boring. It meanders slowly to its climax, or climaxes I guess. What’s really infuriating is that there’s this narrator that shows up in the beginning and end. Now be careful, folks. Woody Allen is trying to trick you into thinking all these things connect because we get a narrator that makes an appearance in the first scene and the last. Don’t be fooled. I could barely understand the narrator anyway. I think even the die hard Woody Allen fans are going to shy away from this one. Stick to movies about Paris, Woody.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Really Bad)