Coming off of a year that featured one of Allen’s biggest box office successes ever with Midnight in Paris, a charming and smartly written comedy about the romance of the City of Light, eyes were turned toward To Rome with Love to ascertain whether or not the prolific director was on a bit of a roll. Fans who are using Midnight in Paris as a benchmark might find themselves disappointed with To Rome with Love, but avid Woody Allen fans will likely find it worth a watch.
To Rome with Love is a movie filled with delicate setups often leading into wild hijinks. These include plotlines as over-the-top and varied as a hooker being mistaken for a wife, a man with a lovely opera voice who can only sing in a shower onstage, an Italian man who meets an American woman and gets engaged quickly, and an indecent love triangle. Love, marriage, sex, comical situations—these are all landmarks of Woody Allen films, so why doesn’t To Rome with Love entirely work?
First and foremost, it’s the rickety way the various stories and timeline are spliced together. I found myself over and over again wishing the stories had been set up as entire tales rather than interspersing plotlines. There are technically four vignettes. One is told over the course of a day, several over the course of weeks, and one over the lengthier course of an engagement and opera career. The plots mix Allen’s signature comedy with great characterization, and occasionally scenes and storylines are incredibly engaging. However, I was continually reminded of watching ensemble television programs where some of the plotlines are more intriguing than others in order to fill space over the course of a season. A movie shouldn’t have these difficulties, since it is telling a tale in a much shorter amount of time.
Like each of the plotlines, the performances vary in excitement. To Rome with Love sports an extensive cast including Allen himself, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Ellen Paige, Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandra Mastronardi, and many, many more. Mastronardi has the same coy charm her character in Titanic: Blood & Steel exuded. Roberto Benigni is energetic and pleasant to watch, as usual. But some of the heavy hitters, like Eisenberg, Cruz, and Paige, fail to really stand out. Perhaps To Rome with Love should have been left to the more Italian-heavy storylines.
In the film, a traffic officer is a sort of watchdog over the city, saying he knows Rome and that there will be many stories next time we come. As charming as this thought may have been at the beginning of the film, by the end of To Rome with Love, most viewers will be weary travelers ready to take some time off from the quick dialogue and interposing of multiple tales. To Rome with Love may be worth seeing, but despite its beautiful setting, it’s not the type of film you’ll need to revisit on multiple occasions.
The disc is set up rather nicely, although the obnoxious soundtrack that pops up over and over again is even more annoying on the menu page. Otherwise, the disc is easy to move through and features pictures fluttering onscreen in a postcard format, which is fitting for a film featuring half an American cast on vacation overseas.
“Con Amore: A Passion for Rome” is a sequence explaining the influences Fellini had on Allen throughout his life, and how he has wanted to explore Rome and its architectural beauty. The producers and many of the actors talk about the joy of working with Allen. As good portions of the film are shot in Italian and subtitled, this segment also takes a look at the fact that Allen doesn’t speak a word of Italian. Finally, interviews from the premiere are included in the segment.
Other than this, though, the disc is pretty barren. If you really want to watch the theatrical trailer after indulging in the film, then you may. Additionally, previews are included as extras, which are a big pet peeve of mine, and are kind of weird, since Midnight in Paris has been out for ages and is being advertised, here. If you are buying this set, it should be for the movie alone.