wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Unlike his earlier films Midnight in Paris and Vicky Christina Barcelona, To Rome With Love isn’t as heavy-duty neurotic and fantastical. With the right amount of verbosity, wit and breeziness, the film allows you to indulge in and explore the city of Rome and the effervescence that it brings to the characters. You know a film has served its purpose when you can hear the people sitting behind you say, “That is such a Woody Allen film!”Read more
I have a theory – you can only truly enjoy a Woody Allen film if you carry with you a bit of neuroticism. Like they sometimes ask you to leave your brains at home for mindless entertainers, I suggest you carry an extra set of wit, over-analyses, free-flowing thought and a little craze in order to truly enjoy any Woody Allen movie. Don’t ask why; just step right into his world.
Of course, his last few films have been celebratory odes to classic cities like London (Cassandra’s Dream), Paris (Midnight in Paris), Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and now Rome with To Rome With Love, but he never really leaves behind his volley of indulgent, neurotic one-liners and exploration of human emotion. It’s the Woody Allen stamp that makes this film charismatic and funny, and you ought to watch the film for that sheer warm feeling in your heart.
In To Rome With Love, he continues to write his on-going love letter to Europe, by introducing a concoction of stories that make Rome such a delightful place to be. He also categorizes Rome as a catalyst for the basic deconstruction of the human emotions that we take granted for: love, loyalty and simplicity to quote a few. Every parallel narrative brings our characters out of their worlds to experience something out of the ordinary, in order to remind them not to take the potential of being alive for granted.
Following four separate story lines, the film traces different set of characters and their experiences with Rome. Expatriates and students, Sally and Jack (Greta Gerwig and Jesse Eisenberg) are a couple who find trouble when Sally’s friend Monica (Ellen Page), a neurotic, vixen like character. The story is pulled through the looming presence of John (Alec Baldwin), who meets Jack while he is visiting his old neighborhood. John’s presence becomes like an older, more mature version of Jack’s conscience providing witty insights to his adulterous experience.
There’s also a small-town couple, Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), who relocate to Rome to start a new life. They get whirl-pooled into a messy, almost slapstick situation as Antonio has a run in with a prostitute (Penelope Cruz). On the other hand Milly gets lost in the city, and finds herself on a movie set with her favorite star Luca Salta (Antonia Albanese). Their innocence gets humorously trampled as each find themselves giving into temptation and nerves. Perhaps two of the most absurd yet hilarious storylines belong to Roberto Benigni (who plays a common Roman man called Leopoldo) and Fabio Armiliato (playing a bathroom opera singer).
Each of the stories are confusing, complex and ever meandering, and as you’re running around in circles with the characters you aren’t allowed a moment to retain your calm. To Rome With Love throws at you twisted deductions, as well as known emotions and analyses that are entertaining to watch, nonetheless. Cinematographer Darius Khondji gives us a spectacular bird-eye view of the city and it’s cinematic interruptions into the narrative. Allen establishes the flavor of Rome well, and much like his earlier films, makes you want to experience the city first hand.
There is a point in the film, when all the mishaps (both comical and contemplative) have occurred, where Alec Baldwin says to Jesse Eisenberg, “A foolish man once said, Stuff happens”. As a viewer you know the potential of that underplayed sentence because in To Rome With Love, stuff does in fact merely happen. But it brings a well-thought, well-entertained smile on your face.
This article is by guest author Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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