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To Rome with Love

April 4, 2013

To Rome with Love (2012)
Director: Woody Allen
Actors: Woody Allen, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin

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Synopsis: Four stories of romance, ‘comedy’ and drama in Rome.

Review: I should have known what to expect when To Rome with Love opens on the truly awful conceit of a ‘comic’ cop, stopping in the middle of his job directing Rome’s crazy traffic (to the sound of crashing cars), to introduce the four upcoming tales of classic Roman farce.

Sadly, To Rome with Love, proves that the charm of Woody Allen’s previous Midnight in Paris was the exception to the rule, and that the recurrent mediocrity of his recent work is the truer indicator to his present artistic relevance. The film is an exposé of just how dated and out-of-touch Allen is fast becoming, and, in particular, his comic sensibility is nosediving fast. Two of the main stories – the man who can only sing opera while showering, and a ‘regular Joe’ who wakes up to suddenly find himself a celebrity – are extremely lame and ill-conceived, yet Allen seems utterly convinced of their comic value and novelty by extending what are essentially skits to a nauseatingly long running-time. When the film ends on the sight of a serious looking opera taking place, I feared that Allen was about to shoe-horn in his shower-singing tenor yet again, just in case the audience hadn’t already got this tiresome and comically meagre gag.

Equally bizarre is the romantic subplot starring Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Garwig and Alec Baldwin. It starts off on a note that seemed rife for development – a whimsical fiftysomething man (Baldwin) wandering around the Rome of his youth and bumping into a student (Eisenberg) who occupies the same apartment he had some 30 years before. Allen scuppers that potential though by completely changing the dynamic of the subplot through focusing on Eisenberg’s fairly bland romantic travails with Page and Garwig, and has Baldwin become a bizarre, ghostly cipher who dispenses nasty, cynical advice to Eisenberg. (April 2013)

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