Despite a longstanding love of film, I’ve never been drawn to Woody Allen’s neurotic charm.
My review of To Rome With Love, therefore, should have been nothing more than another addition to the burgeoning disappointment of the majority of film critics. In fact, I was so taken aback by its simple charm and unaffectedly playful honesty that I followed To Rome With Love with three more of Allen’s films.
Having proclaimed his love for New York, Barcelona, and Paris, Allen has finally turned towards this clever homage to Rome. The film follows four concurrent stories: a young architect (Jesse Eisenberg) falling in love with his girlfriend’s affected best friend (Ellen Page); a white-collar nobody (Roberto Benigni) who gains brusque, illustrious fame; a retired record company executive (Woody Allen) who attempts to recapture his glory days, and a provincial couple who have just moved to Rome. Apart from disappointingly flat performances surrounding Page and Eisenberg (excluding a brief appearance by Alec Baldwin), and Allen’s on-screen wife (Judy Davis) appearing somewhat forced, the cast is largely attuned to Allen’s vision.
The film’s impact, however, is much greater than the individual performances. While a number of critics hectored To Rome With Love for its absence of cohesion, this charge speaks more to a cerebral indolence on the part of the authors than to the quality of their subject. Allen’s object of study in these stories is allure: the siren call of fame, the desire to taste spurious grandeur. Such is Allen’s Rome – deceptively glamorous; and in spite of its somewhat aggrandized romantic nature, simply another city filled with indelibly joyous bubbling life.