Film: To Rome With Love
Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page
Director: Woody Allen
Plot Synopsis: To Rome With Love is about the lives of some visitors and residents of Rome and the romances, adventures and predicaments they get into.
While the film and its title reek of love and romance, critics don't particularly seem to fall for it. Experts have panned Woody Allen's To Rome With Love, even calling it nonsensical and its characters stupid.
AO SCOTT, New York Times
And so, in a similar vein, I’m fairly certain that Rome in the new movie is a metaphor for the capital of Italy.
Which just happens to be a city that Freud dreamed of often and initially struggled to visit, and also a place where American literary heroines like Henry James’s Daisy Miller came to test their innocence against the corruptions of Europe.
The beginning of To Rome With Love suggests a return to this durable theme, as we observe a fresh-faced young woman, charmingly lost on her way to the Trevi Fountain, asking directions from a handsome young Italian man.
One of the most delightful things about To Rome With Love is how casually it blends the plausible and the surreal, and how unabashedly it revels in pure silliness. The plots, which are cut together in no special order, obey different time schemes: Antonio and Milly’s marital drama (which involves a prostitute played by Penélope Cruz, and a movie star played by Antonio Albanese) seems to occupy a single afternoon, while other strands stretch over weeks and months. They rarely intersect, forming a shuffled, syncopated anthology, a variation on the multi-director omnibus films that were a staple of Italian cinema in the 1950s and ’60s.
Final Word: The limitations of “To Rome With Love,” as frothy as the milk atop a cappuccino, are finally inseparable from its delights. Some of the scenes feel rushed and haphazardly constructed, and the dialogue frequently sounds overwritten and under-rehearsed. But this may just be to say that we are watching late-period Woody Allen. Complaining would be as superfluous — though also, perhaps, as inevitable — as psychoanalysis.
David Blaustein, ABC News
Perhaps the only refreshing thing about “To Rome with Love,” Woody Allen’s follow-up to his most successful film of all time, 2011?s “Midnight in Paris,” is whenever Alec Baldwin looks in the direction of a camera, the audience will not feel physically threatened.
Yes, it’s a cheap joke, but it turns out Baldwin is a standout in Allen’s nonsensical but dulcet meditation on love, regret, narcissism and banality.
Final Word: Allen, one of my favorite writer/director/actors, isn’t as impressive. He’s committed to his on-screen role but his trademark over-the-top neuroses are actually a distraction, making Allen seem a caricature of himself. As for the film overall, too many themes and too many non-linear stories make “To Rome with Love” feel a bit disconcerting. If those stories had a connection other than taking place in Rome, I missed it.
Todd McCarthy, HollywoodReporter.com
Woody Allen scored artistically and commercially on his European tour stops in London, Barcelona and Paris but gets a face full of linguini for his efforts on To Rome With Love. At its worst squirm- and grimace-inducing, this is an ultra-upscale touristy spin through the Eternal City as if arranged by the concierge at the Excelsior Hotel. Rehashing gags and motifs familiar from previous Allen films, all of them better done the first time around, the Sony Pictures Classics release might benefit initially from the good will generated by last year's Midnight in Paris, Allen's biggest hit ever, but word-of-mouth will nip hopeful expectations in the bud.
Final Word: For the most part, the characters are too stupid and blind to their own follies to accept even in this farcical context. The best the fine actors assembled can hope for is to avoid embarrassment, which only a few manage to do. Darius Khondji's cinematography bathes the already beautiful city in burnished, golden hues, but even the source-music score, beginning with Volare, is below the director's usual standards.
The city deserved better than this, one of Woody's weakest.
Peter Paras, EOnline.com
The scattershot technique of going from one story to another does lessen the overall experience a tad. There are nice moments in the all Italian-speaking sections, but they go by too quick. Still the highs are a real treat for anyone who enjoys the hilarity that comes from situations that can only be pulled off by a master like Woody Allen. Like the shower guy doing a grand production onstage and all wet. Certainly the cleanest tenor ever.
Final Word: To Rome With Love Is Sealed With a Clever Bacio
Peter Travers, RollingStone.com
Can Woody Allen do for the Eternal City what he did for the City of Light in his Oscar-winning script for Midnight in Paris? Don't get greedy. To Rome With Love lacks the overarching theme of time and regret that distinguished Allen's last romantic comedy, but it has pleasures galore.
And so it goes in this episodic culture-clash comedy in which the laughs are decidedly hit-and-miss. Allen scores comic points at the expense of reality-show fame by casting Italy's Oscar-winning clown Roberto Benigni as an ordinary guy who becomes famous for nothing until the paparazzi move on to the next nothing. But the joke wears thin.
The most touching segment features a tart and tender Alec Baldwin as a vacationing architect who encounters a younger version of himself in Jesse Eisenberg and advises him not to make the same mistakes, like having sex with the BFF (Ellen Page) of the woman you love (Greta Gerwig).
Final Word: What links all these characters is Rome itself, and cinematographer Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris) uses the city as a canvas to paint with color and light. Tourist traps are largely avoided. This is the vital city that inspired Fellini – alive and lived in. When an actor falters or a joke falls flat, Roma stays fresh and dynamic. You can't take your eyes off it.
Peter Debruge, Variety.com
Frisky and frivolous, Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" serves up four comical vignettes, intercut but otherwise unrelated, in the latest stop on the director's breezy tour of romantic Euro locales. Rome makes a refreshing if somewhat superficial backdrop as various broad caricatures -- half of them American, the rest Italian -- contend with semi-surreal complications to their private lives in the Eternal City. This pleasantly diverting, none-too-strenuous arthouse excursion feels like a throwback to Allen's short-story anthologies, with the added pleasure of seeing a game cast play along. Pic has already earned $10.2 million in Italy, where it opened April 20.
While Allen has been criticized for abandoning New York to spend his sunset years traipsing around the world's most beautiful cities, the truth is that the consistently prolific septuagenarian has been delighting a wider audience than ever with his recent visits to London ("Match Point"), Barcelona ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") and Paris ("Midnight in Paris," Allen's top-grossing pic).
Final Word: By juggling such a large ensemble, Allen doesn't really have the time or space to flesh out characters, who remain almost cartoonishly one-dimensional. But the film feels like 15% too much as it is, with each of the strands coming in slightly longer and loopier than necessary. When in Rome, Allen does as he always has, adapting the city to his sensibility. For all the red-blooded talk of philandering, the pic is remarkably chaste, and with the exception of one F-word (used as a verb), this could be the cleanest R-rated film in recent memory.
Marshall Fine, Huffington Post
Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love is a valentine to that city, rendered through a series of semi-connected stories set in the Italian hub.
It’s light and frothy, mixing silliness, romance, magic realism and absurdity. It may not be Allen’s most cohesive film, but it has its charms (and its flaws), nonetheless.
Allen assembles a disparate and not necessarily interconnected group of plots, which feel like short stories or one-act plays. Mixing them together takes the pressure off each to carry too much weight – yet together they provide their own delights, adding up to Allen’s take on the kind of breezy Italian sex comedy that always seemed to star Marcello Mastroianni or Sophia Loren (or both) in the 1960s.
Final Word: In other words, “To Rome With Love” is light, sometimes frothy, diverting without being particularly memorable. It is enjoyable but minor Woody Allen, a film that keeps you watching and chuckling, if not exactly laughing out loud.