Just thought I’d stop by and share my thoughts/feelings wrt another gentle comedy romance, courtesy of writer/director Woody Allen. The critics seem to have slated him for this one actually; but f*** them, what do they know? ;o)
I guess that some may find him a tad predictable and formulaic, as this is more easy viewing at it’s best; with Allen’s typical laid back observations on human nature.
But as far as I’m concerned, he knows where his talents lie and most of what he produces works for me. I don’t always want normal and don’t mind the occasional out-there storyline. In short: 112 minutes of pure entertainment and I always leave the cinema completely chillaxed after one of his flicks.
In this movie he’s continuing the geographical theme of life, (whether it be fixed or transitory), in romantic European cities. This adds a level of sophistication and a touch of the unknown, for viewers from Allen’s side of the pond I suppose. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight in Paris last time out and this time round found To Rome With Love equally entertaining.
As usual there’s a healthy cast of familiar faces, interesting/quirky dialog, amusing plots twists and several interwoven short-stories to keep you entertained. (Granted the stories don’t always have a message or moral per sé. But they usually involve quirky ponderings, amusing what-ifs and oft times an added WTF, just for good measure).
The fact that Allen always has a host of stars lined up to appear in his movies speaks volumes to the man’s talent in my book. The fact he writes convincingly about life in parts of Europe that he’s presumably not spent a great deal of time in, is also impressive. (Tho’ I guess people are people the world over). Half of the dialog in this movie was in Italian; which for a Swiss-resident like myself meant reading German subtitles. That kept me on my toes I can tell ya.
But whatever you think of Woody Allen, you’ve got to admire the notion of writing and setting a story in foreign climes, just so you can live there and make a movie for a while. Seems like he’s got his work life balance pretty well sorted out. Do what you love. If others derive pleasure from it too…even better.
As you can see from the poster above, Allen gets an acting part this time out and as usual he just plays himself. (Neurotic, quirky, mumbler, with a far-off look in his eye). I often wonder whether he purposely writes a part for himself, just to keep his acting chops in check. Or perhaps a neurotic character merely develops to help round out the situations and dialog that pop into his melon? Maybe the person in charge of casting figures out: “hey, this part would be perfect for you”!
I guess Woody Allen’s always been one of those love or hate him kinda characters. The wife finds him plain annoying; “he’s always the same and his fidgeting makes me nervous”. For my part: it’s exactly what I expect; his quips and observations always make me laugh. (Kinda like going to watch Jim Carrey and knowing I’ll get the facial expressions, loud voices and gangly movements. It’s what I paid my Fr. 13 for). I enjoy Allen’s dead-pan humor and the older he gets the more the sour demeanor and sarcastic comments seem appropriate.
I think that each of the story-lines in To Rome With Love had a certain not-of-this-world aspect to it, come to think of it…
Allen’s character (Jerry) is a retired producer of avant-garde Operas who flies to Rome with his psychiatrist wife (Phyllis); to meet their American daughter (Hayley), her new Italian fiancé (Michelangelo) and the prospective in-laws. Michelangelo’s father (Giancarlo) has a fine operatic singing voice, but is so shy that he can only sing in the shower. How that thread continues is pure class.
Alec Baldwin stars as an architect (John) that takes a walk down memory lane, in a part of Rome where he lived as a young architect. He bumps into Jack, a younger version of himself (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and pops almost ghost-like in and out of Jack’s tale of an ill-fated a love triangle. (Aren’t they all). I say ghost-like, as he mostly appears out of no-where; making side-comments to Jack. (John…Jack. Jack…John? Hmmmm). Despite some scenes that show us 2 completely different characters interacting; I can’t help thinking this was somehow John replaying his earlier life in his head and interacting with himself.
Another story-line sees (Oscar Winning actor, writer, director) Roberto Benigni as Leopoldo Pisanello, a married clerk and father who suddenly finds himself famous for no apparent reason. I found this one the most amusing given my thoughts on Hollywood fame, how fickle/fleeting it can be and the way stars cope with gaining or losing the burden of unwanted attention. (It particularly tickled my funny bone given all the attention the Big Brother, Jersey Shore and Reality TV generation seem to receive these days. Seriously, who gives a f***)?
The final thread has Penelope Cruz as one of Rome’s more popular ladies of ill-repute (Anna); interacting with the male half of a newly-wed couple. The couple are in town so that he (Antonio) can impress some well-to-do Aunts and Uncles and land a dream job in the City. The farce that ensues sees Antonio caught in a compromising situation with Anna. He of course pretends that she’s his wife (Milly) and continues with his original plan. Meanwhile Milly is off in search of a hairdresser, but one thing having lead to another, is actually having adventures/complications of her own.
Favorite scenes include: Jerry’s creative ways of getting Giancarlo to sing in public; Leopoldo’s confusion, delight and disappointments with respect to fame; Ellen Page’s interactions with Jesse Eisenberg (just ‘cos she’s cute).
My favorite lines include: Jerry’s reply to Michelangelo’s polite inquiry, “how was your flight”?… “The turbulence was terrible. You’ll probably read about it in the newspaper tomorrow, if they ever find the black box”; plus, Phyllis’ reply to Jerry’s, “You married a very bright guy. I’ve got a 150…160 IQ”… “You’re figuring it in Euros. In dollars it’s much less”.
Like I say, it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea; but give it a whirl. It certainly gets my vote.