I’ve always held a special place for Woody Allen – he’s one of those rare filmmakers that has a very distinctive style; not so much cinematographically, but in terms of writing and dialogue. Continueing his European romp, To Rome with Love had to compete with Midnight in Paris; unsurprisingly, it just doesn’t make the cut.
To Rome with Love is odd in the way its plot has been layed out: four groups of individuals, each with their own separate journeys that take place within the breathtaking city of Rome – two of which feature natives speaking in the local dialect. To Rome also marks Allen’s return to the front of the camera and more often than not, steals the show – of course this is due not only to his signature acting style but also the material that he has picked for himself…it’s almost a little selfish, but in a good way.
Just to break it down:
Group one features an engaged couple who are visited by their parents to bond before the wedding.
Group two follows an architecture student who becomes infatuated with a friend of his fiance. The student’s idol appears to him in what could be explained as a mental manifestation of his moral compass.
In group three, the father of a household suddenly becomes famous for no reason at all and finds himself overwhelmed by the paparazzi and his new found status.
And finally, the last group follows a man and his wife who become seperated when his wife gets lost in the city. After an escort mysteriosly arrives in his room, she masquaredes as his wife when his parents meet her for the first time.
The interesting thing about Allen films is that when they fail, they fail very hard and become an instant black mark on his record, which is a little unfair to be honest because no filmmaker undergoes so much scrutiny. To Rome with Love could have been amazing if it didn’t have so many stories consolidated into one main feature. In my opinion, if he had separated the films into individual movies, or better yet, a series of shorts; it might have succeeded in all spheres.
Nevertheless, To Rome has an amazing cast and enough witty dialogue to fill a barrel of monkeys. This has always been where Allen’s success lies and his craft, once again, doesn’t fail him. The weakest of the lot however are the Italian language inserts that just lack the delivery that the English language would allow; language aside, the plots are also not as well thought out and in the end, they drag the film down by 50%.
One for the art house, not so much Allen fans but completely worth it if you’d like to see him on the big screen again. What you can expect are his typical themes such as romance, affairs, adventure, and the risk of love – it’s nothing new but it really doesn’t have to be.
The Bottom Line
This isn’t one of Woody Allen’s best offering (especially in comparison to Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris), but it has his signature charm and wit, and for many, that’s all that really matters. Some of the plots are a knockout in execution, and some are only a knockout in concept, but no matter what, there is at least a single story that one gravitates towards – and it contains Mr. Allen.