"To Rome With Love" is the latest stop on Woody Allen's European tour, with audiences eager to see Allan do for the Eternal City that he did for Barcelona and Paris in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight In Paris” respectively. Audiences will mostly end up disappointed, but even if Allen misses, there are still plenty of laughs to be had.
The movie presents its ensemble cast, some locals and some not, all revolving around various couples and the choices they make in their lives and relationships. One story involves a contented middle class man who suddenly becomes famous for no reason, while another is about a young newlywed who is mistakenly sent a hooker after he and his wife become separated, and yet another involves a young architecture student who falls in love with his girlfriend's best friend, an actress who as inauthentic as she is alluring. Alec Baldwin (who may be the older version of the student in an interesting bit of magical realism) is in his usual hilarious top form as he tries to guide the young man away from the disaster he knows the dalliance will bring. It certainly doesn't help that Ellen Page feels miscast as the seductive actress. Her down-to-earth, natural beauty seems out of place with her character's phoniness, and she seems too genuine to exude the magnetic, con artist presence that the role demands.
Woody Allen is also back onscreen playing another neurotic, in this case a retired opera director who discovers a magnificent, untrained talent. None of these threads intersect, but they all seem to address how each character wrestles with their normality, or lack of it. The main problem seems to be a byproduct of the large cast, in that none of them feel fully developed or real, and so none really draw you in. Even the satire and lessons are the same ones you've seen and learned before, sans that special touch that should make them seem less tired, or at least more enjoyable.
You only fall in love with the location if the characters are worth caring about, and few of them are given the time and attention they need; a few of the story threads feel like they could easily be films in their own right. As a result, a city like Rome very nearly fails to draw you in or seduce you. Luckily, we have the cinematography to remind you of its incredible beauty and history (as if we needed reminding), but without the people to give it a heart, it remains a shallow beauty.
For a list of movies that seem to have done justice to Rome click here.