More than anything, Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love” made me want to go back to Rome. And as a travelogue, as an advertisement for the beauties of the eternal city, the film succeeds quite nicely. At the very end of the movie, a character says something about the magic of the city, and as I was watching, I kept thinking how true that was. When Jesse Eisenberg’s character remarks, “I live in the Trastevere,” I actually felt envious (of a fictional character!) for getting to live in that neighborhood. As far as the title goes, I’m totally in agreement – with love to Rome, indeed.
As for the movie itself? It was absurd. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way; it was fun to watch. But none of the stories were grounded in reality whatsoever; ergo, it was absurd. It was light and funny, but I didn’t really get anything out of it (besides the aforementioned desire to fly to Rome, like, now). I think Allen wants people to take things from it – maybe ideas about the way our culture turns people into celebrities for no good reason, or thoughts about striving for bigger, better things versus being content with what you have – but he doesn’t succeed at conveying anything deeper. The movie’s a diversion, and I enjoyed it, but let’s be honest: it’s all fluff.
The movie tells four distinct stories (they don’t intertwine, except for the fact that they all occur in Rome), and each story is populated with appealing actors, for the most part. I particularly loved all the Italian actors – Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi as a newly married couple, and Flavio Parenti as a dreamy lawyer were standouts for me. Roberto Benigni, who I usually find grating, was also quite charming, even though he was saddled with the movie’s most ridiculous plot (which is saying something, given that the whole movie was fairly ridiculous).
As for who I didn’t like? Woody Allen basically plays himself, I guess, and I found his character pushy, desperate, and annoying. And Ellen Page, who I think is awesome, was wildly miscast here. Before she appears onscreen, her best friend warns that “all men fall for her.” No disrespect to Ellen, but she’s just not plausible as some type of irresistible seductress. Maybe if Penelope Cruz were playing the role, that characterization would work, but with Page it just falls flat. That’s actually an apt description for the movie itself – it could’ve been so much more, but it falls short. And magnificent Rome deserves better than that.
My Grade: B