Woody Allen has always been one of my favorite writer/directors. His latest film To Rome with Love has received mixed reviews, but call me weird, I just love it. It is quirky, unpredictable and sooo Woody Allen. It is also set in one of the world's most beautiful cities and shows it off to great advantage.
The review in the July 2, 2012, New Yorker (my favorite magazine in the whole world) says "the new movie is light and fast, with some of the sharpest dialogue and acting that he's ( Woody Allen) put on the screen in years. . ."
Bob Mondello in an NPR review describes the movie as "just froth--a romantic sampler with some decent jokes and gorgeous Roman backdrops. It goes down easily, but I have to say it's interesting less for what it is than for how it is."
One of the newspapers in my hometown gave it a rotten tomatoes review and only 1.5 stars out of a possible 4. I think these discrepancies are somewhat typical of Woody Allen's appeal. People seem to love him or hate him. To Rome with Love does not have a conventional plot structure and it is part in English and part in Italian with English subtitles. Both of these factors are enough to cause some people to dislike the film. For example, I overheard two women talking about the film in the theater lobby. One had seen it and one had not. The woman who had seen it said only, "It has subtitles." That was enough to dismiss it for her listener.
We movie viewers follow the characters, some young, some older, through Rome. Except for the couples who are involved with each other, the characters do not know each other and do not interact. We are watching vignettes of what happens to some people in the Eternal City. Almost all the couples find new love by betraying their spouse or boy/girlfriend. Somehow this all works out as in the style of 18th Century farce. Monica (Ellen Page) finds love with her best friend's boyfriend. Penelope Cruz is a prostitute who plays the bride of a movie star so his wife won't discover his infidelity. Roberto Benigni ( Life is Beautiful star) becomes a celebrity for no apparent reason and is always seen with a beautiful model hanging on his arm. His plain and dutiful wife tries to figure it all out.
Woody Allen and his wife ( Judy Davis) are in Rome to meet the parents of their daughter's fiance. Allen hears the father (Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower and wants to promote him for opera on the stage. The only problem is the father can sing only in the shower. Allen manages to always have him on stage in the shower.
Alec Baldwin is an architect who lived in Rome in his youth. He becomes the mentor for a young architect who lives in his old neighborhood. The cast is terrific. The scenes are somewhat madcap and move quickly. There's a sort of carpe diem, seize the day, theme that emerges as the movie plays. Characters take advantage of opportunities that come their way, mostly of an amorous sort.
If you like the slightly off-beat movie, you will find this one as entertaining as I did.