December 21, 2014

Film Review: Traveling Abroad in To Rome With Love

 

PHOTO COURTESY SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Film Review: Traveling Abroad in  To Rome With Love

Woody Allen continues his jaunt through Europe with To Rome With Love.

Much like Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth, Woody Allen is just too good at what he does.

Take the writer/director’s latest, To Rome With Love, for example. Allen is so good at capturing the heart and spirit of Europe’s bastions of culture (Paris, Barcelona, and now Rome) that there is no need for travel because the feeling after the film is that you’ve already been there.

He’s truly a saint to couch potatoes everywhere.

To be perfectly clear, Rome is and isn’t exactly like Allen’s last work, Midnight in Paris. The writer eschews the whole surrealism/modernism angle that made Midnight so whimsical in favor of vignettes that allow Rome to be the central character.

Midnight in Paris also has the city at the forefront, but the director captures the pulse of Rome today instead of the yesteryear of Paris.

Much like the opening scene in the film, the intersecting vignettes show people in transit. First we meet Hayley (Alison Pill), an American tourist who falls in love with Michaelangelo (Flavio Parenti), an Italian lawyer. When Hayley’s parents arrive to meet the family for the upcoming nuptials, Jerry (Allen) thinks he may have found a diamond in the rough when he hears Michaelangelo’s father singing in the shower. Will they postpone the wedding to further the father’s career?

In another vignette, we meet John (Alec Baldwin), a famous architect visiting on holiday. While revisiting his old stomping grounds, John befriends Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), an aspiring architect who reminds him of himself at that age.

Through John’s eyes we see a neurotic love triangle between Jack, his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and her friend Monica (Ellen Page). While John’s commentary of the events unfolding is jaded, it can be wholly appreciated through the spectrum of age and prior experience.

“Experience” would be the perfect word to describe Anna (Penelope Cruz), a courtesan for Italy’s elite businessmen. After a classic mix-up of mistaken identity, newly married Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) now must use Anna to help wow some executives that she may or may not already know.

As a writer, Allen is in fine form. With four vignettes weaving in and out, the audience gets the whole Allen smorgasbord of storytelling. Admittedly, the characters are one note, but that’s okay because he is trying to convey feeling compared to character development, which he does flawlessly.

As director, there are few who can capture a setting as well as Woody Allen. There is not one moment where the audience isn’t taking in every nook and cranny of Rome during the film. It is a master stroke by Allen of applying the perfect setting to capture the mood of the scene. There is something to be said about being hard to get a bad shot in Italy but, then again, you don’t see any artisan using inferior ingredients.

For those who can’t get over their fear of flying or are just too lazy to get past the local art house, To Rome With Love is the easiest vacation to take this summer.