To Rome with Love
Catching the new Woody Allen is an annual ritual, so the main thing to say about To Rome with Love is that it’s consistently funny – perhaps even slightly more amusing than the Woodman’s recent sojourns in Spain (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and France (Midnight in Paris). There’s something relaxed about these travelogue films, which are simultaneously throwbacks and anti-nostalgic; even Woody’s dire UK dramas dealt with the importance of living for the moment. In his first onscreen appearance since 2006’s Scoop, Allen actually plays an opera director afraid of retirement. Despite having no shortage of bad ideas (“I did a production of Tosca that was all in a phone booth”), he attempts to realise the aria-belting dreams of a mortician (Fabio Armiliato) whose Communist son (Flavio Parenti) plans to marry Allen’s daughter (Alison Pill).
Easily the director’s best ensemble piece since 1996’s Euro-set Everyone Says I Love You, To Rome sets its stories against the expected backdrops of the Eternal City. (Wait for the Spanish Steps – they’re in there.) Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi play a Pordenone couple separated during their honeymoon. Roberto Benigni gets a surprisingly funny turn as a clerk who awakes to find he’s famous because he’s… famous. (This inverse-Kafka scenario may double as Allen’s comment on Berlusconi culture.) An architecture student (Jesse Eisenberg) living abroad with his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) struggles to avoid a fling with her houseguest friend (Ellen Page), as he takes Play It Again, Sam-like advice from an invisible éminence grise (Alec Baldwin). And that’s not even getting to Judy Davis; no film that returns her to the Allen universe could be less than bellissima.
From Time Out Chicago
Dir Woody Allen, 112 mins, opens on Aug 23