To Rome with Love is Woody Allen.
Depending on your taste, that can be good or it can be bad. Equally true is since it’s Woody Allen, that can be good or it can be bad. Until Midnight in Paris last year, Allen’s films for the past decade have been subpar or just decent. Nothing special.
Many of us thought the Woodman lost his way.
To Rome with Love is four stories tied together in the eternal city. Get picky and you can make it six. Allen has all of his characters in comedic soap-opera crises. As always, he mixes personal angst, troubled relationships and sex into clever but — since we’ve seen a few dozen Allen movies — predictable plots that include a mix of popular American and Italian actors.
The stories seamlessly slide in and out of each other. Each is packed with Allen’s signature, clever, funny and often profound lines.
All are superb, but two really stand out. Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) is an ordinary office worker suddenly “discovered.” He’s somebody. The most famous man in Italy. His fame is based on absolutely nothing. No talent. No skills. He is famous simply for being famous. The media and fans hang on his every word just because it’s his every word.
It’s a clever poke and very funny metaphor aimed at talentless real-life TV and people famous just because they — or someone — thinks they ought to be.
The second is a love triangle between characters played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Greta Gerwig (Damsels in Distress) and Ellen Page (Juno). Alec Baldwin is their sometimes-visible and sometimes-invisible — Allen just couldn’t make up his mind — conscience.
The others are the parents of an engaged couple whose parents are American and Italian. The Italian husband is a mortician with a unique skill. Wrapping up the four are newlyweds and a prostitute caught in a series of coincidences and mistakes.
To Rome with Love feels like Allen had a bunch of different ideas, none of them good enough for an entire movie. Rather than toss them out, he threw all of them at the screen to see what would stick.
Turns out they all stick. And brilliantly. Few writers can do that.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alison Pill, Roberto Begnini
Rated R for mature themes, sex, language. It is playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.