Aiming to offer fresh insights on amore, adultery and the fickleness of fame, To Rome With Love unfortunately doesn’t break any new ground for the prolific writer-director. Despite his usual repertoire of punchy one-liners, Allen’s star-studded valentine can’t quite deliver on its comedic premise.
Four unrelated storylines are strung together to explore a roundelay of romantic entanglements. In the first and arguably funniest segment, Allen himself portrays a retired opera director who ventures to the Italian capital with his psychiatrist wife (Judy Davis) to meet their daughter’s fiancé and his parents. The former impresario decides to promote the operatic career of the young man’s father (prominent real-life tenor Fabio Armiliato). Hilarity ensues as the unlikely new star can only belt out arias while in the shower. The next two vignettes feature typical Romans speaking in their native tongue (ergo, a whole lot of English subtitles). A newlywed couple is separated soon after checking into a hotel. While the bride has a romantic dalliance with a married movie star, her husband winds up in bed with a voluptuous object of desire (Cruz, exuberant as ever). Meanwhile, a harried businessman (Oscar winner Roberto Benigni) attains celebrity status for no apparent reason before reverting to his previous everyman existence.
The final narrative strand revolves around an American architecture student (Jesse Eisenberg) torn between his current girlfriend and their visiting house guest (Ellen Page).
Matters are further complicated with the arrival of a renowned architect (Alec Baldwin) who may or may not be the young man’s older self.
As an actor Woody Allen, in his first role since Scoop (2006), is in scintillating form delivering quips with his all-too-familiar drawl.
Though the characterisations aren’t quite as developed as one would expect, the slap-happy pacing and seductive locations (courtesy cinematographer Darius Khondji) certainly compensate.