When I began studying cinema a few years ago, you are asked to broaden your views of what you know and gain a lot of knowledge about movies in a short span of time.
Woody Allen was unknown to me except from his name and alleged pedophile claims, and the first movie of his that I saw was Annie Hall, which I followed up with Manhattan.
Ever since those two movies I’ve grown to appreciate his work, which focussed mainly around New York before he started venturing off to other places in the world.
When I was questioned about my love for him at school I said that I felt he had a unique view on cinema, hehas the ability to show the essence of a city, make it a character in the movie, and then tell his story in and around it.
Because I love to travel and because I love the cities he has used in his movies, I looked forward to seeing ‘To Rome With Love’ which features, who would have guessed it, Rome.
Since he did ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ which has been his biggest hit in the last few years, he did ‘Midnight in Paris’ which garnered a lot of favourable buzz but to me never felt like vintage Woody Allen.
So on we go with the review of ‘To Rome With Love’.
Starring a cast thats comprised of Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and my personal favorite Roberto Benigni (La Vita e Bella) he can’t really blame it on the talent involved.
Allen again utilises a European city and a starry cast as a springboard to discuss its clichés and fuse them with arguments of his own. So we bounce from Allen as a retiring opera director reinvigorated by hearing his in-law (renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower to architect Alec Baldwin, advising his 40-years-younger self (Jesse Eisenberg) on women (Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page). Oh, and regular Joe Roberto Benigni wakes up one morning to discover he is a superstar for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
The good news is there’s much here that is genuinely funny, from Baldwin suffering “Ozymandias melancholia” to an entire story strand riffing on Psycho’s shower scene with brilliant aplomb. Baldwin’s constant breaking of the fourth wall in his conscience commentary to Eisenberg is also a pleasure, as is the long-gestating reason behind the Benigni fame frenzy. However, the sheer amount Allen is trying to cover hinders deep attachment to anyone and the film, running beyond his customary 88 minutes, has a sense of stretching conceits to breaking point.
Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Judy Davis (as Allen’s wife) remain aces in the pack, relishing their roles and keeping proceedings just about on the right side of Allen’s hit-and-miss output of late. Despite a few darker undercurrents concerning the nature of celebrity, mortality and the trappings of infidelity, the end result remains a little… tiramisu — a fluffy pudding with only a bit of bite underneath.