DIRECTED BY WOODY ALLEN
Made up of a listless quartet of loosely linked vignettes, each tinged with an air of the surreal, Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love is no less fantastical than its Paris-set predecessor—but it’s loads less fantastic. The workaholic septuagenarian is as prone to producing misses as he is hits. But this particular miss, coming after last year’s charming, hugely popular Midnight in Paris, is especially disappointing.
Charitably interpreted, To Rome with Love has something to say about the vagaries of fame and the curious phenomenon of celebrity worship, but it’s difficult to discern what that might be, unless Allen’s thrust is actually just that it’s better to be famous than not. That’s the conclusion drawn by Roberto Benigni’s middle-aged family man, who, in the film’s flimsiest plot line, wakes up one morning to discover that he’s become a household name. Initially bemused by the gaggle of paparazzi that descend on his doorstep, he’s devastated when they disappear just as suddenly, along with his opportunity for casual infidelities.
Not that the other vignettes are that much more substantial. One story features Allen himself as a retired opera director. It culminates in a lamentably protracted sight gag: several minutes of Pagliacci performed from inside a shower stall. In a third vignette, a pair of provincial newlyweds become separately entangled with a prostitute (Penélope Cruz) and a portly Roman movie star, which, apparently, is the secret to ultimate marital bliss.
The last of To Rome with Love‘s intercut segments is both its most star-studded and its most grating. Born Allen surrogate Jesse Eisenberg plays an architecture student sharing a flat with girlfriend Greta Gerwig, who frets that her vacationing actress friend (self-styled “tiny Canadian” Ellen Page, woefully miscast as a seductress) will steal him away. Despite some choice barbs from Alec Baldwin as Eisenberg’s superego incarnate, the result is like a mini-movie devoted to the noxious Midnight in Paris duo played by Michael Sheen and Rachel McAdams. Needless to say, not the continuity we’d hoped for.