TO ROME WITH LOVE
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
CAST: Woody Allen,Judy Davis,Penelope Cruz,Alec Baldwin,Jesse Eisenberg,Ellen Page
Allen and Ellen couldnt be more apart,but in her short career,the Juno actor has managed to cultivate around her a similar quixotic buzz of standing consciously and conclusively apart from the rest. However,where Allen has made a career out of an insecure,neurotic person mocking others and himself,Ellen comes across as supremely content with who she is.
In To Rome With Love,Allen meets Ellen,to give us the most watchable and with-it character of this film that often meanders in its self-professed appreciation for the fantastic Italian capital. As a wannabe actor emerging from a failed relationship with a guy who was gay,Ellen as Monica is flitty and flirty in a devastating portrayal of the smart young things who pass for smart young things these days.
Monica knows just the twitter-bit enough of everything to pass of as a thinking person,says just enough to get one shocked and interested,and commits just enough to get the other person dangling.
The one dangling in this case is Jack (Jesse Eisenberg),the partner of Monicas best friend Sally. As Monica turns her full charm on him,he falls for her hook,line and sinker,even while denying the possibility of it to Sally.
Its easy to understand why Allen would cast Eisenberg,another guy who does misfits well. However,The Social Network actor is rather lost here as the guy falling for Monicas charms against his better instincts.
They are just one couple in this film of four parallel stories,and among its two interesting ones. The other interesting story involves Allen himself as the father of a girl who has found herself an Italian boyfriend,Michelangelo,she wants to marry. So Allen and wife played by Allen-regular Judy Davis fly down to Rome to meet his parents.
Its a clash of cultures,one that Allen,the director,delights in. He is a rich American,Michelangelo a lawyer working pro-bono,whose father runs a funeral parlour. Allen hides his discomfort but barely,till he discovers Michelangelos fathers singing talent. However,as the story progresses,its obvious that this is just a way for Allen to put on stage the opera without which any story of Italy would be incomplete.
The other two stories,one starring Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) and the fourth Penelope Cruz,dont really amount to much except sections in which characters converse entirely in Italian. In varying ways,they are also a comment on obsession with celebrity,but without much elaboration.
Alec Baldwin is a sort-of floater who lived in Rome 30 years ago and while back there on vacation,chances upon an architecture student (Eisenberg as Jack) in whom he sees himself. His cryptic takes on Monicas callowness are about the only time To Rome With Love comes close to being the Allen of old.
In that sense,it fits in with the writer-directors recent oeuvre. As Allen has moved away from New York,a city he self-confessedly loves,and loves to disparage,his camera has tended to linger more romantically on the cities he now finds himself in. He is no longer looking for faults but willing to overlook them.
Its a new Allen,not the best Allen,but still an Allen one cannot but enjoy seeing.