Written by / 7/05/2012 / No comments / , , ,

WOODY ALLEN WRITES & DIRECTS & STARS IN TO ROME WITH LOVE

year: 2012 cast: Woody Allen, Ellen Page, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni rating: ***1/2
Many reviews of Woody Allen’s latest homage to Europe, TO ROME WITH LOVE, begin with: “It’s no MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.” Well not everyone liked PARIS and a few of us find ROME more intriguing, humorous, and of that bizarre creative universe Woody ventures into on projects like STARDUST MEMORIES and THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

Basically a collage of short stories, we enter lives of fitfully shallow people seeking something better – from Rome natives to Americans abroad. There’s a couple accidentally split apart: the husband winds up with a hooker posing as his wife while the wife is romanced by a famous Italian actor. This is probably the most likable story that, unlike the others, takes place within a twenty-four hour time frame and always keeps you guessing.

The most clichĂ© and confusing has THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s Jesse Eisenberg in full neurotic Woody-channeling mode as a young architect with a sweet girlfriend tempted into cheating with a gorgeous yet flaky actress. Alec Baldwin, as a famous architect and Eisenberg’s mentor, hangs around giving advice – a wraithlike conscious and not really there: although when the film begin he had his own story, somewhat (or perhaps Baldwin's character is real and the others are imagined).

Like this example, some of the bridges from normal to weird are clumsy and confusing, but eventually everything becomes clear – at least enough to enjoy the characters and their plight. Although you’ll often see through Woody’s agendas – like his disdain for reality shows as Roberto Benigni goes from a mundane office worker into a celebrity for no apparent reason. And perhaps the most charming and involving tale has a humble Italian man, who can only sing opera in the shower, being maneuvered by Woody's retired agent character to hit the stage.

An aged Allen, who hasn't acted in his own film for seven years, is sometimes funny despite a one-note expression of sour confusion.  And all the characters in the entire film are a little too much like Allen himself (spouting his opinions and philosophies) to seem like completely real human beings on their own.

But there’s enough creativity to provide a few smiles and an overall decent trip.
BUY TO ROME WITH LOVE AT AMAZON
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