Friday, July 6, 2012

To Rome With Love (Rhoades)

“To Rome With Love”
Is Woody Allen’s

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Ironically, the only appearance four-time Oscar-winner Woody Allen ever made at the Academy Awards was in 2002, when following 9/11 he pleaded with producers to continue filming their movies in New York City.
Ah, Woody, if you’d follow your own advice.
Since then he’s filmed in London, Barcelona, Paris, and – now – Rome.
He blames it on higher production costs in the States.
His latest, blandly titled “To Rome With Love,” is an interesting pastische of snipets, jokes, and routines lumped into four intertwining stories that take place in, well, Rome.
Being an intellectual disguised as a comedian, Woody Allen has created a minor homage to Boccaccio’s “The Decameron.” Although he denies it.
Pay no nevermind. A brainy director like Woody leaves little to chance. An early working title for the film was “Bop Decameron.”
Like Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th Century bawdy tales of love, sprinkled with “wit, practical jokes, and life lessons,” Woody delivers a modern update. Of sorts.
“To Rome With Love” is paying its respects to the Eternal City this week at the Tropic Cinema.
Here, we have a retired music promoter named Jerry (played by Woody Allen) and his wife (Judy Davis) in Rome where their daughter Hayley (Alison Pill) is seeing a handsome Italian lawyer (Flavio Parenti). We also have young newlyweds (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) who are new to the city. And a talented architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who lives with his dull girlfriend (Greta Gerwig), when her high-strung BFF (Ellen Page) comes for a visit.
Add an older architect (Alec Baldwin), who may be facing a spector of his younger self. The lawyer’s father (Fabio Armiliato), an aspiring opera singer. An ordinary guy (Roberto Benigni) dealing with unexpected celebrity. And a pretty prostitute (Penelope Cruz).
One moviegoer said, “Woody is channeling Garry Marshall.” Noting the messy, Valentine’s Day-like intersecting stories in “To Rome With Love.”
Truth is, the four stories become an intellectual exercise in solipsism. For Woody can be found in the characters played by Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, and himself.
As always (or most always), a Woody Allen movie is a self-indulgent exercise in self-analysis. But we don’t mind. Allan Stewart Königsberg has been entertaining us with his neurotic, nervous, and intellectual persona for 60 years – from his television joke-writing to standup comic monologues, from his humorous books to his highly personal films, “especially the early, funny ones.”
As one blogger observed, “He’s a sausage machine. He churns them out like episodes of the same self-obsessed story.”
Another chimed in, “Overrated? He is, isn’t he?”
A third put it in perspective. “Depends how highly you rate him. If you think he’s one of the most talented American filmmakers of the last 50 years, with maybe six masterpieces to his name plus another two dozen thoroughly decent movies and maybe ten that are critically a mixed bag, then I'd say that’s about right.”
“To Rome With Love” is a mixed bag. But with Woody Allen, I don’t mind being left holding the bag.

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