One thing you can definitely say about Woody Allen is that his movies aren’t like anything else you’ll find out there. Even if they are so bad that you would have done a better service to mankind by saving the ticket money and donating it to BP instead -- like Cassandra’s Dream -- they are still original.
To Rome With Love is not as bad as Cassandra’s Dream, but that’s as much of a compliment as it will get from me.
I jest, really. I had fun at a couple of points in the movie, for sure, but, overall, it was an uneven, thinly spread mess of clunky storytelling meshed with awkwardly placed surrealism and sitcom-style convenient coincidences, wrapped in sub par characterization and contrived dialogue.
The movie started to lose me right at the beginning, with a pretentious fourth-wall breaking monologue to the audience, followed by slow establishing shots and the dullest exposition this side of an “Intro to Properly Turning The Shower Faucet For Warm Water” class. We get introduced to several characters, most of which are neurotic Woody Allen surrogates; only one of which is Woody Allen himself. There’s a neurotic architect (Jesse Eisenberg), a neurotic businessman (Alessandro Tiberi), and a neurotic everyman (Roberto Benigni). All those actors do an average-to-great job of channeling Woody, with the most successful being Benigni, who delivers a charming performance that deserved a better movie.
Each one of those characters is the protagonist to his own, separate storyline. And I mean separate like “North Koreans from South Koreans”. None of those plots connect in any way, not even thematically. The characters don’t even bump into each other at the street. The only thing holding them together is the city of Rome itself -- which is sort of the point of the movie, I guess, but it doesn’t take. In the end, you just feel you’re channel surfing through four different sitcoms in no particular order. And none of them are very entertaining -- which is why you’re channel surfing in the first place.
I may be on to something here, actually. Maybe as Allen was dreaming up those stories, he realized none of them were doing so well, so he decided to lump them all together into one and call it a day.
The funniest storyline is the one involving Woody Allen himself, who plays a retired director of avant-garde operas and discovers a rare vocal talent in his daughter’s boyfriend’s father. That one got some belly-laughs from me. The others got some chuckles, too, but that may be because I was being nice to the movie.
There’s a different degree of surrealism in each of those tales. In one, Alec Baldwin plays Jiminy Cricket to Jesse Eisenberg’s Pinocchio. In another, the entire media starts dogging Roberto Benigni throughout town, making him a huge celebrity for no reason at all. And in yet another, there’s Penelope Cruz, who is surreally hot. It all sounds fun, but in actuality it’s just confusing and silly.
To top it off, none of those stories has a satisfying ending. They don’t end with a “bang”, they end with a “plop”. It's as if Allenfinished the second act of each segment and just rushed the third so he could wrap the thing up and go watch some TV, or whatever. The resolutions are all contrived and half-baked. Like having dinner at a fancy place and eating Jello salad for dessert because you already spent all the money you had on the main course.
So, what's my conclusion about To Rome With Love?My conclusion is that Penelope Cruz is hot.