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To Rome With Love (AF)


Stars: Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, Alison Pill, Alessandra Mastronardi, Alessandro Tiberi, Carol Alt, Ornella Muti

Director: Woody Allen

Every year Woody Allen dumps yet another new film on moviegoers.

But with the honorable exception of Midnight in Paris, which succeeded with filmgoers after a run of very well deserved failures, this sad waste of film and performers seems to demonstrate that Allen’s main creative strength now lies in persuading people to fund his annual self-indulgence.

The good news here is that, unlike Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream and Scoop which was only released in Britain by Kurdish pirates in North London and shown very late at night on BBC television long afterwards and, sensibly, screened without any publicity, we have not had to pay for Woody’s latest work with our BBC TV licence money.

Sadly that’s all the good news there is about To Rome With Love, which is poorly written, only adequately directed and embarrassingly acted by Allen who gives himself the film’s few – very, very few - good lines and delivers them badly.

Mind you, he does have the courtesy to review the film when he says to his screen wife Davis “I don’t like this”.

Me neither.

Allen’s by-the-numbers standard sitcom-style screenplay offers four unformed and undernourished anecdotes, which never intrude on each other’s space. Mind you, interweaving them wouldn’t have improved things.

Allen plays (and badly) a retired director of trendy shows who transforms mortician Armiliato, who sings in the shower, into an opera star – performing on stage from inside a shower. This feeble joke, which is waterlogged at the start, suffers further from being repeated more than once. Davis has the thankless task of playing his wife and Pill his daughter who falls for Armiliato’s son.

Another predictable and emaciated narrative strand centres on hooker Cruz who helps save the marriage of country newlyweds Mastronardi and Tiberi by seducing the husband while a middle-aged overweight Italian movie star looks to provide the same service to the wife.

Meantime, American architect Baldwin returns to Rome, where he spent a happy year, and intrudes himself into the life of Eisenberg, whose romance with Gerwig runs onto the rocks when he meets visiting actress Page.

Finally, Allen cruelly misuses Benigni who, inexplicably (and unexplained by Allen), briefly becomes a celebrity.

It doesn’t help either, that Allen infests his film with great tranches of Italian-oriented music, beginning with ‘Volare’. Result? I assumed he owned a disc of easy-to-remember Italian classics and applied it number by number without bothering to consider whether the music chose was appropriate or even necessary.

The acting is rather better than the material or direction deserve. Cruz fills her tight red dress with enthusiasm, Benigni works bravely to flesh out a tissue-thin concept, Davis admirably acts as though she meant it and the others do well enough to deserve something a lot better in the future. And the picture postcard travelogue-style Roman locations also deserve something far better in front of them

I hope I haven’t made the film sound too interesting. It isn’t. It’s simply resembles a very poor Woody Allen knock-off which should have been knocked off long before committing it to film. Allen would have been well advised to find a genuine undertaker to bury this film instead of inflicting it on moviegoers.

Perhaps Woody should consider passing on next year’s film and take a sabbatical instead.

Alan Frank

Italy/USA 2012. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by deluxe.
112 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 12 Sep 2012