Yes, this is one of those, those forgettable paper sleeve movies separating the Mint Milanos of actual entertainment. Between Midnight in Paris and Whatever Works, we had one dud of a feature film. (It was You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger — I know I saw it but I have almost no memory of it. And yes, I liked Whatever Works.) Between Whatever Works and Match Point, there were two. (That’s right, Vicky Cristina Barcelona was, in my opinion, filler.) Between Match Point and Small Time Crooks, there were five very tough rows to hoe. Maybe the next movie, or the one after that, will be a real swell time. And hey, that’s not a terrible average. You make roughly a movie per year, as Allen does, you’re bound to make a few mediocre-to-sucky ones. And good on him for being the driving force, success or failure, of the movies he makes. I think that perhaps he should try to make more movies that don’t feel bogged down by decades-old ideas, but, hey, Midnight in Paris felt original.
To Rome With Love, on the other hand, feels like some forgotten, dust-covered idea revived due to lack of something better. The movie cuts between four unconnected (as far as I can tell) stories:
(1) Hayley (Alison Pill), an American visiting Rome, falls in love with Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Her father, Jerry (Woody Allen), a retired classical music producer thinks Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), Michelangelo’s father, has a voice for opera and tries to get him into the spotlight. But he can only sing when he’s in the shower.
(2) Successful architect John (Alec Baldwin) returns to Rome, where he lived decades earlier, and wanders around his old neighborhood. He meets Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man studying to be an architect, who is living with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and about to meet her friend, the nothing-but-trouble Monica (Ellen Page).
(3) Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and his new bride Milly (Alessandra Tiberi) come to Rome to live and perhaps build some wealth thanks to a job Antonio has with his uncles. But then she gets lost in the city looking for a salon and he is mistaken for a customer by prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz).
(4) And then there’s Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), middle-class shmo who briefly becomes a celebrity on par with Brad Pitt.
I had faint memories of Melinda and Melinda, that darkest point before the dawn of Match Point, while watching this movie. That movie featured tales unspooled by three people sitting around a table talking, providing clunky introduction to what we’re about to see and a “here’s the point” summation. Here, a man stands up near the end to tell us that life is tough for everybody so we might as well enjoy the perks of celebrity. OK, sure, it’s as good a ruling principle for this mushy mix as anything. But the movie didn’t actually make me think about that. It didn’t actually make me think about anything. Perhaps in the Alec Baldwin segment I could have pondered the idea of youthful mistakes, but the movie, so literal in its “watch the old guy Greek chorus his younger self,” actually seems to say “no, that’s OK, we’ll state the point for you.” So then I’m just left “enjoying” what, the comedy? The performances? The witty dialogue? Ha, no. C-
Rated R for some sexual references (and because nobody under, say, 50 is really going to want to see this anyway). Written and directed by Woody Allen, To Rome With Love is an hour and 52 minutes long and is distributed by Sony.