To Rome with Love had potential with an impressive cast, which Woody Allen always manages to bring together, intriguing/bold stories and an absolutely beautiful locale that never gets old seeing on screen. However, with these multi-stories going in and out, the pacing is at times dreadful and when really only one of the stories is the least bit entertaining, it can be tough to get through the others.
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
Sony Classics | R – 112 min. – $35.99 | January 15, 2013
Directed by: Woody Allen
Writer(s): Woody Allen (written by)
Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi
Theatrical Release Date: July 6, 2012
Features: Featurette, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Hindi, Spanish
Disc Size: 28.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
Over the course of his career, writer/director Woody Allen’s movies were more or less love letters to New York featuring his quirky characters, mainly played by himself, with an oddly whimsical romanticism to the story and oft ensemble relationships. In recent years, since 2005’s Match Point, it seems Allen is doing a tour of European countries and cities from London in the aforementioned Match Point as well as Scoop to Paris in Midnight in Paris to now Rome with his latest, To Rome with Love a multistory ensemble that offers surreal storylines and quirky characters but unlike similar city-themed movies like Paris, I Love You or its cousin, New York, I Love You, these stories barely, if at all, have commonality with one another and as it goes back and forth from one storyline to the next, it also has a tough time finding its footing.
The first story centers on American tourist Hayley (ALISON PILL) in Rome when she meets the dashing Michelangelo (FLAVIO PARENTI), over the course of the summer the couple fall in love and are engaged to be married. Flying in to town to meet their future son-in-law and his parents are Hayley’s mother (JUDY DAVIS) and her neurotic father, Jerry shockingly played by Woody Allen. Mayhem ensues when Jerry, a retired record executive, hears Michelangelo’s father sing opera in the shower and believes he can make a star out of him, but discovers he only has the voice while singing in the shower…
Story #2 follows newlyweds Antonio (ALESSANDRO TIBERI) and Milly (ALESSANDRA MASTRONARDI) in town as Antonio has an important meeting with a couple high-strung relatives for a job opportunity. Milly leaves to get her hair done but discovers the hotel’s salon is booked and goes out seeking to find one but gets lost and not knowing Italian or even the name of the hotel, goes on a adventure eventually meeting a high profile Italian actor. Meanwhile, Antonio is the victim of mistaken identity when high-priced escort Anna (PENELOPE CRUZ) arrives, having been all paid for. However, the relatives arrive in the room during an uncomfortable moment and now she must pretend to be Antonio’s wife! Sounds like a “hilarious” plot for one of CBS’s sitcoms.
In the third story, and probably my favorite and one that could’ve filled a feature-length running time, finds successful architect John (ALEC BALDWIN) returning to Rome after having lived there 30 years prior. As he tours the city streets, he runs into an aspiring architect in Jack (JESSE EISENBERG) who just so happens to be living the same apartment he had during his time in the city. John is invited to basically tag along and meets Jack’s insecure girlfriend, Sally (GRETA GERWIG), and they are later joined by a sensuous/striking actress, Monica (ELLEN PAGE), who immediately catches Jack’s attention despite John’s warnings. Other than how Monica is described and the fact it’s played by Ellen Page, this one could be considered a time warp, perhaps of John’s own experiences which especially plays out given his interactions with the other characters. It offers the most depth of the four stories.
And last involves a boring family man named Leopoldo (ROBERTO BENIGNI) who suddenly experiences fame out of nowhere with everybody, including news organizations, want to know everything about him from how he shaves to what kind the kind of underwear he has. It’s obviously done to the extreme but interesting and often funny nonetheless.
One of the bigger problems I had with To Rome with Love, aside from a one-note joke taken too far (the singer in the shower), is the fact that it cuts back and forth from one story to the next plus other than taking place in Rome, there’s no real connective tissue such as a common character. By cutting back and forth, the movie is uneven and hard to get through outside of the one story which, as I said, I would’ve preferred if it was an entire movie of its own.
In terms of the cast, most of them do well save perhaps for Woody Allen who, as I said, is playing the same character he’s played over the course of 40+ years, in the past he’s been fine but much like Clint Eastwood (who I love and respect), perhaps it’s time to stay completely behind the camera. However, the others do fine but my favorites were Roberto Benigni playing the everyman part nicely and Alec Baldwin who perhaps is not Award-worthy but his line delivery is spot on and brings the most heart and soul to the picture.
As a whole, To Rome with Love is a misstep for Woody Allen who, for the most part, has had a stellar career even into his twilight years with amazing flicks in Match Point and Midnight in Paris. The cast all do their parts but they’re mostly forgettable and the story is jumbled cutting into each story separately thus stopping any momentum or flow that story had. By no means is this a bad movie yet it is one that has left people divided. For me, there’s no reason to revisit it making it, at best, a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
Along with Midnight to Paris, this is now only the second release of a Woody Allen film to have any features. This disc includes Con Amore: A Passion for Rome (9:05; HD) featurette as well as the Theatrical Trailer (2:00; HD). The featurette isn’t anything profound or introspective but offers up some behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with Alec Baldwin and one of the producers providing commentary on the film (although Allen is absent). Later there are red carpet interviews with the other cast members.
Preview – Midnight in Paris
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Sony brings To Rome with Love on Blu-ray presented in its original 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and while the 1080p high-definition transfer isn’t entirely awe-inspiring, it still features some good detail levels. The color array is on the softer side with an almost gold tint, though this isn’t due to a poor transfer but how Woody Allen and his DP chose to shoot it: a romantic tone.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
In another rarity for an Allen directed film, this gets a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track. Like the picture, I didn’t find it particularly robust though it does come to life whenever there is music playing. However, dialogue levels do come across a tad muffled at times but it’s not distracting. Otherwise, this isn’t a track that will shine but adequate for the genre.
OVERALL – 2.75/5
Overall, To Rome with Love had potential with an impressive cast, which Woody Allen always manages to bring together, intriguing/bold stories and an absolutely beautiful locale that never gets old seeing on screen. However, with these multi-stories going in and out, the pacing is at times dreadful and when really only one of the stories is the least bit entertaining, it can be tough to get through the others (the Roberto Benigni one does have its hilarious moments, though). This might be Woody Allen’s worst movie but it’s a stark drop-off from Midnight in Paris.