'To Rome with Love' lazy but still lovely
"To Rome with Love," Woody Allen's latest offering, isn't one of his best movies, but it isn't one of his worst, either. Plotted a bit lazily, it's often very clever, pleasant and pretty funny, too, writes Seattle Times movie critic in this review. The film is playing at several theaters in the Seattle area.
Seattle Times movie critic
'To Rome with Love,' with Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page. Written and directed by Allen. 112 minutes. Rated R for some sexual references. Several theaters.
Well, it's not "Midnight in Paris," but it's not "Whatever Works," either. Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" is one of the writer/director's lesser pleasures, but a genuine one. It's mostly pretty funny and often very clever. The city of Rome turns in a lovely performance, and the film brings us a small but meaningful realization: Many movies could be improved by the addition of a blazer-clad Alec Baldwin in purry Jack Donaghy mode, strolling around making urbane comments from the sidelines.
That's what Baldwin does for much of "To Rome With Love," as a sort of ghost or memory guide in a story of a younger man's romantic misadventure; watching him glide through the film is a sly pleasure. His story is one of four occurring simultaneously (though there's some confusion over the timeline) but not interconnected. Jerry (Allen), a former opera director, is delighted to find an unexpected star tenor (Italian opera singer Fabio Armiliato) in the person of his daughter's new father-in-law-to-be — but runs across some snags when trying to promote him. (The tenor, alas, sounds his best in the shower.) Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young American living in Rome with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig); their lives are disrupted by the arrival of Sally's neurotic friend Monica (Ellen Page) and the interjections of American architect John (Baldwin), whose presence brings a slightly magical note. An Italian newlywed (Alessandra Mastronardi) gets lost in Rome, while her husband (Alessandro Tiberi) has a mistaken encounter with a prostitute (Penélope Cruz). And a regular Rome fellow (Roberto Benigni) finds unexpected celebrity — but he (and we) don't know why.
There are moments when "To Rome with Love" feels a little lazy: Allen hasn't bothered to figure out the timeline (why are the newlyweds still on the same day, while the other stories clearly take place over much longer?), and Benigni's subplot in particular runs out of gas long before the movie's over. But on a sunny Rome afternoon, as the late-summer light caresses the Colosseum like a silk covering, feeling lazy is sometimes just the thing. The now 76-year-old writer/director is on vacation here, and he takes us (and a fine cast) along with him, ensuring that we all enjoy the city's pleasures. Rome, a character reminds us in the end, is full of stories; and so, "To Rome With Love" reminds us, is Allen ... still.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org