Oh, Woody Allen. Where do I even begin? I was never a huge fan of Mr. Allen but I found Midnight In Paris acceptable enough albeit it unbelievably silly. Regardless, I decided to give his new film, To Rome With Love, a chance. I mean, it’s got a decent cast, it’s set in a beautiful locale and Allen can write some decent jokes when he wants to, right? Boy, was I wrong. What a mistake. Apparently he wasn’t in the right mood when he wrote To Rome With Love.
To Rome With Love is composed of several small unrelated storylines. There’s the American tourist who falls in love with an Italian and, upon their engagement, invites her parents (her neurotic father is portrayed by, surprise, Allen) to meet her future in-laws only to find that his father has a “genius” opera voice…but only in the shower; there’s the man-eater (Ellen Page) who comes to visit her best friend in Rome and ends up seducing the best friend’s boyfriend (Jesse Eisenberg) while inexplicably Alec Baldwin acts as an unseen narrator/commentator/conscience; there’s the small town newlyweds who come to Rome for their honeymoon and to seek their fortunes but end up in their own separate storylines: the groom’s involves a prostitute portrayed by Penélope Cruz while the seemingly naive bride finds herself being wooed by Italy’s most famous actor and sex symbol (interestingly an overweight and balding Antonio Albanese); and, perhaps the most entertaining (and that’s not saying much), is the average guy, aka “schmuck” (Roberto Benigni), who becomes famous for absolutely no reason and ends up giving interviews on how he likes his toast and what he thinks the weather looks like.
The first half of the film is painful with cheesy acting that intentionally plays right to the camera. Throughout the film it’s uncomfortable, it’s unbelievably predictable and many of the jokes simply fall flat. Allen also manages to work in plenty of Italian stereotypes.
Towards the end of the film, Benigni is told by his former chauffeur that, yes, celebrity can be torturous but it has its benefits; it’s better to be famous than to not be famous. Not only is that moral a little disconcerting, it’s also about all I got out of the film. In true Hollywood fashion, all the other storylines have happy endings.