Woody Allen must not think much of Rome. At least compared to the ardor he lavished on New York City in Manhattan, the golden Spanish reverie of Vicki Christina Barcelona or even the charm he leant to France’s capital in Midnight in Paris. Sure, To Rome with Love has some nice architecture as a backdrop, but its episodic storyline is built on shakey foundations.
Two of the four storylines revolve heavily around infidelity. A third storyline has only four or five scenes involving adultery. What is this on Woody’s mind — forbidden love? Is he casting Rome herself as a sort of Euro-Vegas — what happens on the Spanish Steps stays on the Spanish Steps?
The main (and faithful) storyline of the film involves young lovers — one an American, one an Italian — but is quickly taken over by their soon-to-be fathers-in-law, Woody Allen as a retired avante-garde opera producer and real-life tenor Fabio Armiliato as a mortician who likes to sing in the shower. It’s a joke that could sustain maybe three minutes on YouTube, if it was escalated continuously, which it is not, even with Woody giving it plenty of padding. Roberto Benigni as a completely average Roman who is made inexplicably famous is more fun to watch, but again, that story boils down to a Silenus-like squib of wisdom: Both the famous and the unknown will suffer, but if you have to pick one, its better to be famous. Next, we have a young couple moving to Rome from the Italian countryside, played by the winning Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi. A mixup unworthy of television’s worst sitcoms finds them temped to break their fresh vows with a film star (Antonio Albanese) and a hooker (Penelope Cruz), respectively. Finally, we have Alec Baldwin functioning in a never-quite-explained way as a “conscience” to some young American students, one of them a budding architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who falls in love with his girlfriend’s best friend (Ellen Page). Greta Gerwig plays the to-be-jilted girlfriend, and is a far better and more interesting actor, thus of course barely seen on screen. Baldwin lands some funny quips, but some of his criticisms of the Page character (she’s a pseudo-intellectual who knows one line from every poet) could easily be turned back against screenwriter/director Woody Allen.
None of these disconnected fables is Woody at anything over par. The movie is mildly funny, but irredeemably slight. It can easily be missed.