Film Review: "TO ROME WITH LOVE"
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2012
Updated: Saturday, July 7, 2012 13:07
Films directed by the great Woody Allen are like a brand: At their best, you will forever describe them as so much better than everyone else’s that desperately tries to copy him. At their worst, you will stand by and defend even his most questionable works for their wrongs until death does us part. The common aspect that those good and bad Woody Allen films and all those in the middle share is the fact that the director as we’ve come to know him is a pure womanizer, exemplified in his latest release “TO ROME WITH LOVE.”
In terms of crafting motion picture art, being a womanizer (for Woody) surely isn’t a bad thing. Even though he doesn’t seem to have a clue how females interact, assuming constantly within his films that all(or most) women are stupid and are unable to resist the sultry allure of men no matter what kind of front they put up, he surely knows how to glorify the appeal of sporadic sexuality within romanticized cities. He’s done this quite often to history-filled European cities like Paris with “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS,” London with “YOU WILL MEET A TALLDARK STRANGER,” Barcelona with “VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA” and most famously New York City with “MANHATTAN” - which this film undoubtedly shares many similarities with in terms of plot.
“TO ROME WITH LOVE” is the newest movie in which Woody beautifies affairs with an ensemble cast of actually likeable actors and actresses – not typical within modern day Hollywood, where we use camp like “VALENTINE’S DAY” as a film to refer to with a memorable ensemble cast. Unlike that aforementioned piece of trash, Woody actually creates a storyline that outlines the similarities of a hierarchy of lead male characters. Jesse Eisenberg’s character is an up-and-coming architect (clearly a Woody Allen characterization), and Woody himself plays his typical persona with his trademark neurotic personality, so those two share a direct and undeniable link. To complicate matters, Eisenberg equates his own student architect character to Alec Baldwin’s experienced architect character because they are both architects and lived in the same apartment in Rome while studying there. So essentially, there are three male Woody Allen characterizations within the film amongst a colorful crew of womanized females.
I’ll be frank now, though. Some of the dialogue in the movie, Ellen Page’s character’s in particular, just makes it seem like the writer(Woody) hasn’t spent time in the real world in a coon’s age. Ms. Page can be cute and spunky when she is directed the right way, but Woody clearly put minimal time into perfecting her ADHD-like dialogue. Thus she really has nothing likeable about her whatsoever while she’s supposed to be this irresistible, cute-as-a-button but all-too-horny girl who all her lady friends are afraid to have around their boyfriends because they’re scared that she’ll seduce them with her charm. I personally am a big fan of Ellen Page, as “JUNO” was a great role for her and she might be my favorite superhero sidekick ever in “SUPER,” but in “TO ROME WITH LOVE” she acts like an 8 year-old in a16 year-olds body and, for once, didn’t seem to understand her character at all.
That’s the only downside amongst the female actresses, though. Penélope Cruz does something we all know that she’s capable of in playing an irresistibly flirtatious prostitute, and at 38 years old she is surely still a strikingly beautiful individual who has nearly perfected the art of acting. She needs no help in creating this identity, but if there’s one lady Woody’s direction clearly puts the most emphasis on, it’s the innocently infatuating Milly – played by young Italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi. Her character is representative of an Appalonia-like purity that may only exist within 0.00001% of women in the world, providing proof that we are all, no matter how pure, susceptible to temptations – and that Woody Allen clearly thinks every woman on this earth can be sweet-talked into sleeping with a man that puts enough effort into his choice of words. You’ll be mad when you see the decision she almost makes, but that decision lays within one of the many questions our long-lived auteur asks within his newest film.
Can a perfectly sculpted body overcome a perturbed mind? Can stardom overcome innocence? Can infatuation overcome love? These are all questions Woody Allen asks and may give an answer to depending on your interpretation of the characters’ motives and actions within the film. There is no sure message behind the movie that everybody is going to walk away from it thinking. The plot really goes nowhere but in a giant 360º spin, but it moves well because of Allen’s writing skills. “TO ROME WITH LOVE” also, among other things, identifies the general sense of phoniness that goes with being a paparazzi-plagued celebrity.
This phoniness is exemplified through two Italian, non-English speaking actors in Antonio Albanese and Roberto Benigni (most famous in America for his role in Jim Jarmusch’s “DOWN BY LAW”). Albanesere presents the typical scumbag celebrity who flaunts his near useless fame to seduce stupid girls while Benigni personifies the more modest(but also more useless), surprise celebrity who can’t help breaking his humbleness because he knows no better than to take what he is given. And in the end, who is the more likeable and memorable guy to the media? Of course, even in real life, it’s always the everlasting asshole superstar simply because he is usually more accustomed to dealing with bad accusations and situations and is therefore surely
more seasoned in solving them.
“TO ROME WITH LOVE” is a comedy worth seeing by all means, as it is a representation of the fact that a great auteur of 40 years’ mind is proven to have not faded much at all during that time. Woody’s character at one time in the middle of the movie equates retirement to death – further proof that he’s going to keep making films regardless of what people think of them. Hell, he doesn’t want to die; He was the man quoted saying, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”