Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: European Actors Shine in Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 34 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

To Rome with Love (2012)
Running time:  112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
MPAA – R for some sexual references
PRODUCERS:  Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Faruk Alatan, and Giampaolo Letta
EDITOR:  Alisa Lepselter

ROMANCE/COMEDY with elements of fantasy

Starring:  Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Fabio Armiliato, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Albanese, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, and Roberto Benigni

To Rome with Love is a 2012 romantic comedy written and directed by Woody Allen.  Like other Allen films, To Rome with Love has magical realist elements.  To Rome with Love follows a small group of visitors and residents of Rome and focuses on their romances and adventures and the predicaments into which they get themselves.

To Rome with Love tells four unrelated stories.  Hayley (Alison Pill), an American tourist, falls in love with Italian pro bono lawyer and Rome resident, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), and they become engaged.  Hayley’s parents, Jerry and Phyllis (Woody Allen and Judy Davis), arrive in Rome to meet Michelangelo and his parents.  Jerry, a retired opera director, discovers that Michelangelo’s father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), has a wonderful operatic voice, so Jerry decides to make Giancarlo an opera star in spite of everyone’s protests against that.

Newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) arrive in Rome from their rustic hometown.  They are supposed to meet Antonio’s well-connected and posh uncles who have lined up a fantastic job interview for him.  However, Antonio and Milly get separated.  Antonio is accidentally forced into an encounter with a gorgeous prostitute named Anna (Penelope Cruz).  Milly meets her favorite actor, Luchino “Luca” Salta (Antonio Albanese), who immediately begins to plot to have sex with the young wife.

John Foy (Alec Baldwin) is visiting Rome and meets Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), a young architecture student.  Jack lives with his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig).  Sally’s friend, Monica (Ellen Page), a pretentious young actress, arrives in Rome to visit them.  John warns Jack about falling in love with Monica…  Finally, ordinary business man, Leopold Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), suddenly gains an extraordinary life.

To Rome with Love is a romantic, comic, and romantic comedy romp through Rome.  It is not by any means a great film, but this movie does have a kind a charm that I cannot explain.  The American actors are mostly stiff, but Allen does not give them particularly flexible characters.  There is, however, this one great moment when Alec Baldwin’s John gives Ellen Page’s Monica a fantastic death stare.  There is something potent, electric, and maybe even dangerous in this one stare that I wish the rest of the John-Jack-Sally-Monica storyline had.

On the opposite side, the European actors sparkle.  Allen gives them the best characters and also better subplots than he gives the Americans.  The Europeans get inside the shallow characters Allen gives them and make them less shallow and more attractive. One example of this is Antonio Albanese.  Bald at the top of his head and somewhat pudgy, Albanese makes Luca Salta an alluring, sexy man, which in turn makes the idea of Salta as a movie star convincing.

Penelope Cruz, who won a supporting actress Oscar for her performance in an earlier Woody Allen film (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), gives To Rome with Love’s best performance.  She deserved another supporting actor Oscar nomination (at least) for her work here.  When her Anna is onscreen, this film seems to sparkle with new energy because that is what Cruz does – enliven things.  She is an excellent actress and is also quite the spitfire.

I will recommend To Rome with Love to fans of both Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz.  It is not great, but it is worth seeing.

6 of 10

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

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