"To Rome with Love" Not Worth a Date Night
I was prepared to like Woody Allen’s latest film “To Rome with Love,” which opens this week. I liked “Midnight in Paris,” and I thought this one might have the same summer-escapist feel to it. All I can say is that I did want to escape. I wanted to escape the theater.
It’s rated R, so don’t think about taking your kids to it. Not because there’s anything shocking that they might see, but they would definitely be bored out of their minds. I will say that I liked the cast; although, I’ve never cared much for Jesse Eisenberg. It’s just a personal thing. He was especially annoying in this film. Besides Eisenberg, the ensemble cast is pretty fabulous: Penelope Cruz, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Woody Allen (of course), Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill. Nothing wrong with the cast.
And the setting of Rome is gorgeous. But the storyline is non-existent. There are actually several stories set against the backdrop of Rome, none of which is particularly polished. As I watched, I found myself wondering if maybe Woody Allen was thinking this might be his last film and he had to include every story idea that he ever had. Some of the ideas were funny. I liked the Roberto Benigni character who becomes famous for being famous, but there’s too much of it. And, while the idea of obssession with celebrity could be done in an interesting way, we are expected to believe that fame just came to a low-level clerk for no reason. It doesn’t make sense, and it feels like Allen just jammed a character into an idea without thinking it through. In fact, Allen wants to hit us over the head with every punch line, every theme, every idea so that he makes SURE we get it. It felt condescending, false and, well, lazy.
I love Alec Baldwin, but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief to enjoy his character, a middle-aged architect who was giving words of wisdom to Eisenberg, who plays a young architect living with his girlfriend in Rome. Baldwin was trying to keep Eisenberg from cheating on his girlfriend (Gerwig) with her best friend, an actress played by Ellen Page. Every time Baldwin was on camera, I wondered “What’s he doing?” He was an unnecessary character who kept popping up, but was he imaginary or real? It doesn’t matter. It was as if Allen said, “Oh, Alec Baldwin wants to be in my film. What can I give him to do?”
And the opera singer in the shower? Too much. Not funny. And how many times did we have to hear Woody Allen’s psychiatrist wife (Judy Davis) tell him that he equated retirement with death? We got it the first time.
There were scenes that were entertaining. In fact, in each of the love stories playing out in “To Rome with Love,” there were bits of humor and fun. But the script seems thrown together and, in some places, the actiing is like a good high school play. In one scene, Eisenberg, Gerwig, Page and an Italian actor who is briefly Page’s boyfriend, break into the Roman bath houses and a thunderstorm ensues. Eisenberg and Page find themselves oddly separated from the other two and are trying to keep their mutual attraction at bay. However, there’s no chemistry between them, and the dialog and acting is so clunky that I felt embarrassed for them.
If you’re going to pay for a babysitter, you might be better off going out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant rather than seeing “To Rome with Love.”