Review in a Hurry: Under the spell of Roma, Jesse Eisenberg is smitten with Ellen Page even though his girlfriend is the adorably insecure Greta Gerwig. There’s magic afoot (again) in Woody Allen‘s follow-up to Midnight In Paris. A cannoli with an international cast, To Rome With Love is looser—and sillier—than Paris, but still a treat. The scenery is beyond travelogue gorgeous.
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The Bigger Picture: Rome is served up as five tales that mercifully do not need to come together. All five are concerned with—what else?—finding love.
Even if that amore is the kind Jerry (Allen, back on screen for the first time since Scoop) has for an Italian undertaker who sings like an opera star when he’s in the shower. Jerry and his wife (reliable Judy Davis) are in Rome to meet their daughter’s fiancé whose name must be Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). But what really gets Jerry is a tenor of a mortician (world-renowned Fabio Armiliato). As Allen’s characters are frequently are obsessed with death, the mix of mortality and a voice that’s heavenly is wonderfully staged.
The best scenes are those that feature John (Alec Baldwin) as the possibly imaginary mentor for Jack (Eisenberg) who falls for Sally’s (Gerwig) best friend, Monica (Page). Many of the out-of-this-world elements bleed into reality. Baldwin’s character seems to only talk to Eisenberg, but sometimes he’ll make comments that Page or Gerwig will react to. Somehow, it works well, so just go with it.
Penélope Cruz wears one snug red dress for the entire running time. We’re not complaining. Darius Khondji, who also handled the cinematography for Midnight in Paris, makes the sunny Roman holidays shimmer as much Paris midnights glowed. While the cast was born attractive, they’ve never looked better.
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The scattershot technique of going from one story to another does lessen the overall experience a tad. There are nice moments in the all Italian-speaking sections, but they go by too quick. Still the highs are a real treat for anyone who enjoys the hilarity that comes from situations that can only be pulled off by a master like Woody Allen. Like the shower guy doing a grand production onstage and all wet. Certainly the cleanest tenor ever.
The 180—a Second Opinion: The comedy can be extremely witty, but Roberto Benigni as nobody Leopoldo who becomes famous for “doing absolutely nothing” strains.
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