Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Woody Allen’s latest film, TO ROME WITH LOVE is a showcase for the filmmaking style he has made a career out of; simple storytelling centered around troubled characters swimming in themes of love, sex and marriage. The question going into this film, and in this late stage of Allen’s career, is if his unique and recognizable style and formula can be still be relevant after so very many years and movies.
TO ROME WITH LOVE tells five different stories in the city of (believe it or not), Rome. The film puts us into the lives of a famous American architect (Alec Baldwin) reliving his youth who sees himself in the lives of a young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwing) and their slutty friend (Ellen Page); an average middle-class Roman (Roberto Benigni) who becomes an overnight celebrity; a young newlywed couple (Isabella Ferrair and Sergio Rubini) who become mixed up with a prostitute (Penelope Cruz); and a retired music producer (Woody Allen) working to put a signing mortician on the opera stage.

The five different stories have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and it’s easy to feel like sitting through ROME is either like watching several different movies at once or just a very long soap-opera episode. Each story is sweet enough and developed enough to be charming and engaging in its own way, but the film tends to leave the characters behind. Each individual seems to only exist just to move the many plotlines forward, and by movie’s end there is no reason to care if they get hit by lightning or not. It’s a dialogue heavy film, and for as much as the characters have to speak, they go nowhere saying it.

Woody Allen of course can’t help but to have himself in the film, and while that often works for him, here it feels like he’s in front of the camera just for the sake of it. His usual zippy one-liners often fall flat, and the rest of the film’s dialogue just feels like whatever Allen needed to get off his chest at the time. From a technical standpoint, the film seems to suffer a little from the director not looking through the eyepiece; the shot-blocking often looks a little off and amateurish. Allen has never been known for being a wizard with the camera, but ROME often looks like it was shot by a Film 101 student; a shame, considering how beautiful the city of Rome should look in front of the camera.

The entire cast does well with what they have to work with; everyone is stellar and Allen clearly still has a knack for casting the right persons in the right role. Allen also knows what his male audiences (and some female audiences) are in the theatre to see; not one eyeball can be torn away from the screen when Penelope Cruz is putting her panties back on.

TO ROME WITH LOVE still explores Allen’s common themes of love and sex, but with much broader strokes than his past efforts. In some parts of the film it works, but overall feels like it could have benefitted from less plot and more character. No one feels like they reach any goal or arc, and that kills it. TO ROME WITH LOVE is sweet and is a pleasant time waster, but ultimately shallow.



  1. This film was such a bummer because the characters weren’t really fun to watch and there was nothing else really all that interesting going on either. Just a weak follow-up to Midnight in Paris. Good review Alan.

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