Friday, July 20, 2012

"To Rome With Love": Time for Woody Allen to Call It Quits?

     To Rome With Love is Woody Allen’s latest travelogue after the recently dark and dangerous Match Point (London), the sexy Vicky Christina Barcelona and last year’s magical Midnight in Paris, but it’s a major step down and is merely amusing and somewhat quaint.  There are four stories that aren’t interconnected in terms of narrative, but reflect on different aspects of taking a chance, two of them about love.  There are a couple of original ideas – an ordinary, middle-aged guy who
sings magnificently in the shower, regardless of setting and a middle-aged, successful architect reflecting back on his youth in Rome and acting as a mentor/narrator for a younger character, who is a stand-in for himself, but who may or may not actually be present in the scenes.

Penelope Cruz Recognizes Several Clients at a Party
     There’s a glittering American-Italian-Australian cast.  Many famous actors want to work with Woody Allen, but he doesn’t demand much of any of them.  Penélope Cruz, who was wonderful in Vicky, doesn’t do much beyond moving like molten chocolate, i.e. the devil’s candy.  

The Italian Opera Singer Meets His Son's Girlfriend's Parents
Judy Davis might as well have written her part because there isn’t much that is witty or funny in the dialogue, but her body language and facial gestures are a hoot.  I wish somebody would put them in a movie with Sophia Loren (Cruz is like Loren’s spiritual performing daughter) and really give them something to do.  Alec Baldwin as the architect and Fabio Armiliato as the shower singer both bring intriguing presences to the movie.  

Roberto Benigni Arrives at a Premiere
Roberto Benigni really takes off with the bit about the instant celebrity and he knows exactly how to calibrate his mime to maximum effect without going overboard.  Alison Pill, intense as Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight, does a good job, but Jesse Eisenberg is stranded in the weakest story and stuck with falling in love with Ellen Page’s narcissistic actress.  Page really should be called Pill instead because she’s always nettlesome and vaguely unpleasant.  She was competent in Inception, but I’ve disliked her in everything else including Juno.

Dexter Checks Out the Building Relationship
Between Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenburg
     Maybe it’s time for Allen to hang it up.  This work reminds me of Picasso’s paintings completed during the last decade of his life.  The craft and formalism are professional, but the passion has dissipated and there is no longer any originality or shock.  Nicole Holofcener makes the types of movies that marked Allen’s peak (see Friends with Money and Please Give), Lynn Shelton is moving the romantic comedy forward, and Judd Apatow is the most cutting-edge proponent of the schlub finding himself and love with the goddess (or the Jew and the shiksa if we’re going to trace that story to its historic origins).

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