Title: To Rome with Love
Director(s): Woody Allen
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
With another year, comes another Woody Allen film, a director who seems to be ready to direct until he dies. Allen has always been considered one of the best directors out there, and with last year’s Midnight in Paris, it’s hard not to see why. The film was both inventive and refreshing, easily making it into my top five films of last year. Unfortunately for Woody, he is a very hit and miss director (doesn’t help that he releases a new movie every year) that tends to be more miss than hit lately. To Rome with Love is, much to my dismay, another miss for him but not an utterly bad film by any means.
It’s not a stretch to say that Woody Allen’s humor is very off-beat, filled with absurdities that are grounded with reality. It’s never too weird, but never completely normal and To Rome with Love really accentuates that. The film shows several different storylines that in no way intersect except that they all take place in Rome, and in some way involve the idea of being a celebrity. One such example of the humor and this concept is the character Leopoldo (played by Roberto Benigni), who is told by his coworkers one day that they are not interested in his personal life. Then for some odd reason, he becomes famous and everyone wants to hear what he has to say. So he spends the film being completely dumbfounded at why he’s celebrity, and learns all the benefits of being one. The idea being that the general rules of society do not apply to celebrities, so he gets to sleep with all the women he wants even though he’s married, and can cut in line at restaurants, or just do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, this sort of dumbfounded humor is too typical of Woody Allen and done so well by Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris that it is hard to appreciate it the same way. There are moments that are funny during his storyline, but it’s such a ridiculous premise that in no way explains itself.
The movie becomes a film focused solely on having characters experience something that will reshape their lives. This is probably the most frustrating part of the film, because nothing is gained by the viewer by watching To Rome with Love. Instead, what Woody Allen has done is get every character to come full circle, and then we as the audience are left with nothing, but the characters are left with a small experience that will shape how they behave in the future. When Midnight in Paris finished, there was a sense of wonder and the audience gained from Owen Wilson’s experiences in the past. With To Rome with Love, there are simply five storylines, and none are incredibly interesting. In fact, most are poor attempts at humor that is only funny because it’s in another language. Or at least, that’s my rationalization for why people were laughing. If it was in English, and by another director, I don’t think the laughs would have come so easily. The only moment in the film that really had me interested was when Woody Allen was on screen, but even then, it was just because he always plays himself in movies and his hypochondriac style of humor works perfectly for him and never needs to change.
Perhaps the most enticing part of the film is just the setting. Since Woody Allen has left New York he has consistently showcasing some beautiful parts of Europe, but a setting is no more than a setting in this film. It seems like more people were impressed with this film in my theater than I was, and I’m fairly certain it was nothing more than people loving the setting and the foreign-nature of it all. The big thing Allen did right was the cast, but even that included some characters that could have been no more than footnotes, such as Alec Baldwin’s character. With that, it’s hard to see why this film should really be seen beyond it being a Woody Allen film. He is so inconsistent with his work, that it it took years for him to make a film that finally revitalized the reasons we love him as a director, and it’s looking like it might be another several years before we get another Midnight in Paris or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Overall: Not Recommended