Where do I even begin with To Rome with Love, the new romantic comedy that is as disastrous as anything the great Woody Allen has ever made? We can start by trying to dissect the purposefully and pointlessly incoherent plot. By the end of my summary, hopefully you’re as confused as I was while watching the movie.
Set in the Eternal City, To Rome with Love simultaneously tells four separate stories that have nothing to do with one another, the only reason they are presented in one whole films is, well, shit, I have no idea.
(Now, please don’t take the next few paragraphs as me trying to be cute or funny. I’m not deliberately making the plot sound jumbled as an attempt at sarcasm – I just honestly had no idea what the hell was happening, or why.)
In one story, a famous architect (played by Alec Baldwin) runs into a young architect student (played by Jesse Eisenberg) on the street. Before long, the student invites Baldwin to his apartment for an espresso. Once in the apartment, the student’s girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) says that her overly sexual best friend (Ellen Page) is coming to visit. Once Page arrives, things play out in typical Woody Allen fashion. The boy falls for the girl, despite having a perfect girlfriend, and so on. Problem here is, throughout this plotline, Baldwin frequently acts as the voice of reason in Eisenberg’s ear. No, literally. He talks to Eisenberg during the scene, in front of the women (who don’t seem to hear him, except for Page, who hears him sometimes). So, basically, Eisenberg and Baldwin continually engage in this witty back and forth during every scene, but their exchanges are never heard by the other characters, unless they… are. Is Baldwin’s character real? A figment of both Eisenberg and Page’s imaginations? I haven’t the slightest clue, and neither does the movie.
Another story has Allen and Judy Davis as a married couple, visiting Rome to meet their daughter’s Italian fiancé, Michelangelo. Once they arrive, Allen (playing a retired music producer) becomes completely taken with Michelangelo’s fathers’ operatic singing voice. Problem is, the father can only sing well in the shower. Solution: put a shower on an opera stage so the father can sing Verdi and become famous. No, really.
Then there’s Roberto Benigni, who plays Leopoldo, a common Italian man with a loving family and a cubicle day job. One morning while walking to his car, he is bombarded by paparazzi. Apparently, Leopoldo has become the most famous person in the world overnight, for no apparent reason. He is famous, he is soon told, for being famous. Is Allen trying to make a statement on America’s obsession with the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians that litter pop culture? (Does Allen even know who Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are?) Again, I have no idea, and I fear that the film doesn’t either.
Lastly, there is the story of an innocent, freshly married Italian couple wrapped with cases of mistaken identity. In short, the wife leaves to get her hair done, and Penelope Cruz, playing a prostitute, shows up to the husband’s hotel room and demands to have her way with him. The man’s extended family walks in, and he explains that Cruz is his wife. So he and Cruz spend the day together, while the real wife accidentally meets her favorite movie star and ends up falling in love with him.
To add to the confusion, the Baldwin, Allen, and Benigni stories all take place over several days (or weeks?), while the Cruz segment takes place in one afternoon. We’re never told why we are following these specific people, and we’re never given the slightest shred of reasoning as to why things are the way they are.
I was afraid to write this review. Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors. I’ve seen every single movie he has done, and, although he’s made as many bad movies as great ones, there is no denying the stamp he has left on the cinematic landscape. Most everyone has an Allen movie(s) that they completely adore, and many of us have Allen films we could live without. Now, picture the worst of his you’ve seen, and multiple its pointlessness by 10, that’s To Rome with Love.
I was afraid to write this review because I knew, through writing, my true feelings would emerge. And, it is with great sadness that I relent that To Rome with Love is the worst film Woody Allen has ever made. I’d say better luck next time, but hell, who knows. F