AKA Bop Decameron, Nero Fiddled
Starring Alison Pill, Flavio Parenti, Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Fabio Armiliato, Roberto Benigni, Monica Nappo, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi, Penélope Cruz
Directed by Woody Allen
Expectations: Moderate, but I’m always thrilled to see a new Woody Allen film.
I liked To Rome With Love more than Midnight in Paris. I thought Midnight in Paris was good and gorgeous and truly inspired, but it didn’t feel like a true Woody Allen film to me (not to mention that it wasn’t all that funny). That’s fine, as it wasn’t that type of movie, but in certain ways To Rome With Love is the Allen film I’ve been waiting for: a light-hearted, straight-up comedy with a distinct Allen feel. If I had believed the press about To Rome With Love, I would’ve missed out on an enjoyable film — good thing I never really cared about the press for Woody Allen films. To Rome With Love is filled with fun scenarios that lead to absurd bursts of hilarity, and while it is a little too unfocused between all its storylines, I didn’t much care as I was having so much fun.
Like many of Allen’s 2000s films, To Rome With Love is set in an iconic European city and it doubles as an incredible looking travel film. This time, instead of a single story, Allen decided to tell four unrelated tales. They never come together, and they never feel like they should. In fact, it’s clear that each one exists on its own timeline, as a couple of days go by in the Roberto Benigni timeline while only an hour or so passes for another of the stories. Odd as it may sound, this is never jarring at all. I do feel like the film is a bit overstuffed — perhaps three stories would have been smoother — but I’m at a loss to decide which one to cut. They all work together well in an abstract sort of way, and provide a lot of classic Woody Allen entertainment.
One of the aspects of To Rome With Love that I found quite intriguing, and also quite unexpected, was that it traded in light fantasy and surreal elements akin to Midnight in Paris. It doesn’t go full-bore like that film, but there’s one story in particular that is definitely happening (at least in part) in one of the character’s minds. Through the whole movie I assumed it was the mind of a certain character, only to reconsider that position right before I started writing this. I know I’m being vague, but this kind of discovery is the thing that should never be spoiled, and to even go into it like this is probably too much. Whatever, you’re the one reading reviews of movies you haven’t seen, so that’s on you. Although, this brings to mind a new type of movie blog, one where there are “Quiz Gates” to each review. The reader would need to prove that they had seen the film by answering questions about it, and if they succeeded they would get to the review. Spoilers would be a thing of the past! But, back to the fabricated reality of Woody Allen…
I loved To Rome With Love (even if I kind of hate its generic title). It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a Woody Allen film through and through, and that makes me rather happy after the much more mainstream Midnight in Paris. To Rome With Love also feels similar and like something of an homage to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, although it’s been a very long time since I saw that one, so maybe I’m way off base. In any case, if you’re a big Allen fan, ignore the general consensus and seek this one out.