Did You Run Out of Breath Woody?

To Rome With Love (2012)
A Review by Ben Hunter
2 Out of 5 Stars
June 22, 2012

After the awards, the Oscar won is starting to collect dust, and all the well deserved hype from his masterpiece Midnight In Paris has died down, Woody Allen looses breath, looses steam, and comes to a crashing halt by hitting a brick wall with To Rome With Love.  To drop from “Paris” to “Rome” extremely disappoints me as a die-hard fan of his work.  It’s hard to believe this is apart of his repertoire.  The only splash of water in the face to come back to reality with realizing this film actually is apart of the repertoire is the fact that Woody himself is in the movie; his first appearance in one of his films in over 5 years with 2006’s Scoop.  But “Rome” is far from any quality of your standard, intellectual comedy penned and helmed from the witty Woody Allen. 

It’s a story intertwined with multiple stories.  Which was my first red flag but I know these types of films can pull it off, it’s just not too often as they come off as lazy writing.  Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) is in Rome working and studying abroad to become an architect and runs into John (Alec Baldwin) to discover he’s walking in the exact same path as John when he was his age.  John becomes a major influence in Jack’s life and is his conscience, comically reappearing in his imagination during thoughts of infidelity that Jack has with his girlfriend’s (Greta Gerwig) “gorgeous” friend in her words and once again miscast with Ellen Page who looks like a cute little girl and not an amazingly beautiful woman like the story tries to portray her as.  But it works because she looks someone to rock the world of Jesse Eisenberg.  Nonetheless, when the story builds her up as some sort of supermodel and then we the audience get Ellen Page a sweet, cute girl, it’s kind of a let down.  No disrespect to Ellen Page; and with the right writing this storyline should’ve been the only one this film. 

There’s a young newlywed couple on their honeymoon in Rome.  In a misunderstanding with the groom’s family, they think his new bride is the prostitute Anna, played very comically and brilliant by Penelope Cruz who brings that sex appeal and energy that she has to all her scenes.  Some of the jokes in this storyline come off a little tongue in cheek and not the cleverly witty and intellectual comedy that Woody is known to produce.  

Which probably explains why the comedy that the quirky Woody Allen himself delivered was one of the few breaths of fresh air within this film.  However, the story surrounding the comedy and the story that Woody’s character Jerry were in was far from the level of quality that the comedy Woody can truly produce as a filmmaker.  Jerry wants to come out of retirement as a classical music producer when he hears the beautiful voice of the father of his daughter’s new fiancé.  This is only to find a slight problem with his voice, a very corny, immature, juvenile, poorly written, and extremely non Woody Allen movie type of problem.  It was still nice to see Woody circulate some of his actors to feel like he’s developed a nice family.  I loved Allison Pill in “Paris” as Ella Fitzgerald, and to see her face in “Rome” as Woody’s daughter was quite refreshing regardless of how foolish and half-witted her storyline about her soon to be father-in-law might have been. 

A regular average, run of the mill, blue collared worker in Rome wakes up one day to discover he’s a celebrity.  So the media all want to know the slightest details of his boring, mundane life.  Had this storyline been written better it might have come off as watch-able, but like the rest of the film it had an amateurish, tongue-in-cheek feeling to it.  Last I checked, Woody didn’t make spoof, tongue-in-cheek, and the on purpose overly exaggerated comedy. 

I wanted the intellectual, intelligent, witty, sophisticated, and classy comedy that Woody is known for.  The type of comedy that doesn’t actually feel like comedy, or what we think of when we hear “this movie’s a comedy”, but rather a sophisticated time that still gives me a feeling of fun at the movies.  A feeling that makes me feel like I’m becoming a better person because I’m experiencing something on an intellectual level, that’s what Woody Allen does, grown up comedy. 

Instead, I received something quite childish.  

To Rome With Love
Comedy, 102 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by:  Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Allison Pill, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni, and Jesse Eisenberg

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