Film: To Rome With Love
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Penelope Cruz, Flavio Parenti. Roberto Benigni Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg.
The man who gave us films like Annie Hall, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Small Time Crooks, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and so many more, now brings us his latest venture To Rome With Love.
Woody Allen films have a certain charm about them. His last Midnight in Paris, Made us fall in love with the city, it's culture, the romance and the dreaminess it embodies.
In To Rome With Love (TRWL), Allen shifts focus from Paris to Rome. The film seems like an ode to the ancient city with beautiful romanticised shots of the ruins, the narrow streets, and the pavement cafes. Through characters, that are a mix of Americans and Italians (and quirky all the way), TRWL tries to bring out the different flavours of Rome and sets itself apart from the usual romantic comedies.
The film follows the format of various stories running parallel to each other, and never quite meeting in the end. We have Anna (Penelope Cruz) a high-end prostitute who is trying to pass herself off as a small-town wife of a man in Rome to set up his own business, and failing hilariously. Then there is John the architect (Alec Baldwin) whose Roman story is revealed through the adventures of Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who is basically a younger version of John himself. In another part of the city, Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), a regular old dependable middle class clerk, wakes up one day to suddenly find he has become a celebrity for no apparent reason. And then of course we have the bit with Woodly Allen himself where he plays an ex-opera director, Jerry, itching to come out of retirement and finding that opportunity in his daughter's future father-in-law who, it seems, has the voice of an angel but only in the shower. Flinstones fans will recognise this part of the film as from the episode where Barney Rubble, unable to sing anywhere but in the shower, is pulled on to the stage in a bath tub to sing for an audience.
TRWL blends the real and the fantastic seamlessly to present to you the farce that is life. The concept of time has been utilised in an interesting manner as we see that some stories are spread over a long period of time, some over just a month while another one over just one afternoon. The juggling of narratives and the transition from one time frame to another has been done expertly.
Performances are convincing and natural. Ellen Page is someone to look out for as she outdoes herself as Monica, a shallow pseudo intellectual seductress who lures Eisenberg to cheat on his girlfriend even as he constantly haggles with Baldwin who hovers over him like his sub-conscious (or his conscience?), advising him to be smarter and less of a jerk to his girlfriend. Allen is adorable as he strives to make people understand his brand of opera that his wife kindly describes as "ahead of its times". Benigni's depiction of a bewildered little man at being the centre of paparazz'i attention is amusing and perfect right down to the 't', but the bit stretches on for too long and the obvious explanation of it in the end ruins the fun.
TRWL leaves you charmed and happy and even though this one might not make the Oscars list, you must still watch it.