Review of To Rome With Love

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A romantic comedy written and directed by Woody Allen and set in the romantic city of Rome, this film tells the intertwining stories of a worker who wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who takes a trip back to the street he lived on as a student, a young couple on their honeymoon, and a frustrated opera director who has a talent for discovering talented singers.
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Movie Review: "To Rome With Love"

-- Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2012
Directed by: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy

Woody Allen ("Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Scenes from a Mall," "Hannah and Her Sisters") started directing, producing, and writing movies before some of his current fans were born. He quickly learned that ensemble movies were best because they let him tell multiple stories. In "To Rome With Love," he introduces a new group of movie fans to the idea of an ensemble movie.

The movie takes place in Rome, and it tells the story of several couples and people in the city. It opens with Hayley (Alison Pill, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," "Midnight in Paris") stopping to ask a man for directions. The man, Michelangelo (Italian singer Flavio Parenti), falls in love with her, and they embark on a whirlwind relationship despite the complaints of her parents. Allen himself appears in the movie as Jerry, a man who once worked as a music promoter and Hayley's father. Judy Davis ("Husbands and Wives," "The Eye of the Storm") appears as her mother.

The story then jumps to the newlywed couple Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi, "The Second Wedding Night") and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi, "The Beast in the Heart"). The two arrive in Rome from a small town and immediately find themselves tempted by new loves. Despite taking place in Rome, Allen cannot leave New York behind, which is why he has a set of American actors playing prominent roles in the movie.

Jack (Jesse Eisenberg, "Zombieland," "The Social Network") and his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig, "Arthur," "No Strings Attached") have few problems until Sally's best friend arrives in town. Monica (Ellen Page, "Juno," "Inception") is a stereotypical actress who only cares about herself. Jack frequently discusses the issues he has with Monica to John, (Alec Baldwin, "Rock of Ages," "The Departed") who might have an unusual connection to him.

"To Rome With Love" bounces from one story to the next with little time to think about what just happened. Allen does not try to connect the multiple storylines but leaves it to the imagination of the watcher to decide if the stories relate to each other. The director pays homage to the early films of Italy by playing with the time lines in each story. While the newlywed story takes place over the course of a few hours, Jack's story takes place over several weeks.

One of the best stories in the movie is that of Jack. Ellen Page is best known as the quirky girl from independent movies, but she chews the scenery as the actress with self-esteem issues. When she decides that Jack holds the solution to all of her problems, she goes after him with gusto. Baldwin does a formidable job as Jack's mentor, the man who wants to help him choose the right path. When Allen introduces the idea that Jack might be a younger version of Baldwin, the scenes lose a little of that interesting dynamic.

Allen knows that he has an active fan base, and a few of the scenes offer a wink and a nod to those fans. When we first see Allen's character, he's sitting with his wife on an airplane battling turbulence. As he explains that the reason he is so worried is because, "I'm an atheist," anyone who watched his previous films will find themselves giggling. The other scenes that he has in the movies are less successful because it almost seems like he plays a parody of himself.

Allen's other misstep comes with the casting of Roberto Benigni ("Life is Beautiful"). Leopoldo (Benigni) is a resident of the city who becomes an overnight sensation. In one scene, he stands in the middle of the street and freaks out over the publicity and attention of others. Allen lets the actor ad-lib the scene, hoping for some of the comedic gold that Benigni showed when he accepted his Oscar. The scene doesn't reach that level though, and it feels somewhat flat and boring.

"To Rome With Love" is Allen's love song to the Italian city. Whether the actors are trapped inside an apartment or wandering through the streets, there are elements of Rome everywhere. The tiny touches, like seeing the city outside of a window, show the viewer the beauty of the city.

While it isn't the best movie that Allen ever released, it does have some strong scenes and fantastic acting. "To Rome With Love" is the kind of movie that you can watch multiple times and find something new and different with each viewing.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars