To Rome With Love

First Hit:  Mediocre Allen film with some funny moments.

Over the last few years Woody Allen has created a few wonderful works based in Europe: “Midnight in Paris”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, and “Match Point”.

Part of what made these films work is that Allen isn’t a character in them. It appears to me that his best work, these days, is when he isn’t a character in his films but when his focus is strong writing and directing.

Here Jerry (Allen) and his wife Phyllis (played by Judy Davis) are in Rome to meet their daughter Hayley’s (played by Alison Pill) fiancé Michelangelo (played by Flavio Parenti). In another story, John (played by Alex Baldwin) is coaching Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) about whether he should or will have sex with his live-in girlfriend Sally’s (played by Greta Gerwig) close friend Monica (Ellen Page) who is visiting them from Hollywood.

In another story, Millie and Antonio (played by Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi respectively) are on their honeymoon in Rome and she wants to have an affair with an Italian film star while her new husband is attempting to fend off Anna (played by Penelope Cruz) a whore who’s been fully paid for.

Lastly, there is a story about the fleetingness and stupidity of fame with Leopoldo (played by Roberto Benigni) who all of a sudden finds himself the darling of the media until one day it stops, just as it started, suddenly and without reason.

Of the four major stories, the one with Jerry attempting to get Michelangelo’s father Giancarlo (played by Fabio Armiliato) to sing opera on stage after Jerry hears him singing opera in the shower are the funny bits. We discover that Giancarlo can only sing well when he is in a shower, so Jerry stages major operas with every scene with Giancarlo singing on stage in a portable shower.

Allen is mediocre and, for the most part, probably needs to quit being in front of the camera. Davis is good as Allen’s wife who puts up with her husband’s predilections. Pill is OK as Allen and Davis’ daughter. Parenti is a level above as the protective left wing fiancé. Baldwin is nothing interesting except when he says lines which reflect his real world woes. Eisenberg has no wings here and is retrained. Gerwig is OK but doesn’t seem engaged in the role. Page is supposed to be the femme fatale, but I found it hard to see her as described (sexy). Mastronardi and Tiberi are fine as the distracted honeymooners. Cruz came across as overtly trying. Benigni is somewhat mindless in this misplaced character. Armiliato was the best thing in the film. Being able to hold together a shower signing opera man was very good. Allen wrote and directed this very mediocre film.

Overall: This film was mostly lifeless and without a strong story – just a mash of four poorly constructed ones.