To Rome With Love film review: Carelessly written and uneven in quality

CHRIS TOOKEY: To Rome With Love: Carelessly written and uneven in quality

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UPDATED:

08:59 GMT, 14 September 2012

To Rome With Love (12a)

Verdict: Uneven

Woody Allen’s last film, Midnight In
Paris, was his best for ages.

His latest, To Rome With Love, set in the
Eternal City, is overall a disappointment, but has moments of wit and
charm.

Darius Khondji’s cinematography establishes the right, romantic mood.

It’s four stories in one. The first
and worst is about a boring Italian (Roberto Benigni), who wakes up to
find himself famous for no reason.

Alesandro Tiberi has to pretend that Penelope Cruz is his wife, while his real wife is tempted into adultery with a famous film star

Alesandro Tiberi has to pretend that Penelope Cruz is his wife, while his real wife is tempted into adultery with a famous film star

He revels in his fame but then longs
for privacy. It’s toothless satire, lazily written and much too broadly
played.

Almost as disappointing is a story of a
naive young Italian husband and his pretty wife (Alessandro Tiberi and
Alessandra Mastronardi) who come to the big city, where the husband has
been offered a job by relatives.

Thanks to some unlikely farcical
misunderstandings, the husband has to pretend that an expensive
prostitute (Penelope Cruz) is his wife, while his real wife is tempted
into adultery with a famous film star (Antonio Albanese).

Woody’s point in this crude farce is
that infidelity can be good for a marriage.

I’m not sure Mia Farrow, or
indeed many other women faced with Allen’s embarrassingly sexist
stereotypes, will be amused. I wasn’t.

Slightly more bearable is the
third strand, where a retired avant-garde opera director (Allen himself)
comes to Rome with his long-suffering, sarcastic wife (the great Judy
Davis) to meet the parents of a Left-wing lawyer (Flavio Parenti) who is
marrying their daughter (Alison Pill).

Actress Penelope Cruz at the New York screening of 'To Rome With Love'

Actress Penelope Cruz at the New York screening of 'To Rome With Love'

There develops a nicely surreal
storyline about the boy’s undertaker father (Fabio Armiliato) being an
outstanding tenor who can sing only while showering. ‘He’s going to be
the most popular opera singer in the world!’ crows Woody. ‘Certainly the
cleanest,’ rasps Davis.

But even this story is laboured. A lot of it looks like deleted scenes from Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

Easily the best storyline, and the one
that should have been developed further, concerns a nervy young
architect called Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who’s torn between his live-in
lover (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend, a self-centred actress (Ellen
Page) who’s a poseur but sexually irresistible.

The talented Eisenberg and
self-confident Page work well together, in a way that reminded me of
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan.

Laughs are also generated by Jack’s
alter ego, John (Alec Baldwin), an older architect who may be Jack’s
older self or even his ghost, who comments ironically on young love
rather as the shade of Humphrey Bogart did in Allen’s comedy Play It
Again, Sam.

Even this aspect is messed up, as
Allen won’t clarify who or what John is, and confuses matters by
allowing characters other than Jack to see John.

To Rome With Love is carelessly
written, uneven in quality, and nowhere near as charming as Midnight In
Paris; but its good points place it in the lower-middle range of Allen’s
output. You should enjoy bits of it.