Much like a traveller's folio of interesting encounters, Woody Allen's latest film blows like a breeze during one summer in the Mediterranean city. Allen shares four independent tales taking place in Rome, featuring varying degrees of witty and eccentric gags much driven by the scripted farce. Not to mention how a couple of cast adds flavour through their amusing rendition of situational humour.
To Rome with Love is a kaleidoscopic comedy movie set in one of the world's most enchanting cities. The film brings us into contact with a well-known American architect reliving his youth; an average middle-class Roman who suddenly finds himself Rome's biggest celebrity; a young provincial couple drawn into separate romantic encounters; and an American opera director endeavoring to put a singing mortician on stage.
An Italian traffic policeman greets the audience at the beginning. He casually introduces the charms of his rustic European capital and that it contains several stories to tell, like most other cities, while at work. Promising an interesting personality, it is a surprise that he is merely intended as a passive narrator of the four tales that shortly begin to unfold in turn-taking segments. Narration format isn't in the form of non-diegetic voice narration but rather performed as a recount through the camera's observation.
There is an American famed architect who interacts with his past memories as a young architecture student training in Rome. An ordinary Roman clerk who finds his mundane life brightened up overnight in fame for no apparent reason. A couple who came from a suburban province to seek a better life in Rome but instead finds something else. Last but not least, a retired American music producer who is mesmerised by a singing talent in Rome and is bent on commercialising it.
If you're expecting the four dots to connect, Allen opts for four distinct tales that interlace via chopped-up segments as story silos that are in no way interrelated. While four linearly fashioned stories appears to be running in parallel, they are certainly not chronologically related in real time. Three of which spans across a number of days while one seemingly occurs within an afternoon, all of which are comfortably sequenced as a pleasant surprise.
Without a clear focus, this opinion observes further for common themes across and discovers that the theme of love and infidelity are served in various forms through the perspective of one under the influence of the Eternal City.
Adoration by the public over a celebrity is discussed through a mundane clerk's (Roberto Benigni) attained overnight fame and the consequential opportunities (including philandering ones) it gifts. Nostalgic reminiscence relates to an American famed architect's (Alec Baldwin) interaction with his past memories (through the vessel of the neurotic Jesse Eisenberg) of an infatuation with his Italian girlfriend's (Greta Gerwig) pal (Ellen Page) who is heavily reputed as a sexy and attractive woman. Newly wed couple (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) seeks blissful life in Rome but instead finds adulterous temptations, one with a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) and another with a movie star (Antonio Albanese). Last but not least, a retired American music producer by chance of meeting his daughter's (Alison Pill) new Italian boyfriend (Flavio Parenti)gets mesmerised by a singing talent (the boyfriend's father, played by Fabio Armiliato) in Rome and is reacquainted with his passion for a music career.
Various forms of love and infidelity is thematically involved along with some humouring wits. Largely dialogue driven, there are some great moments of fun and laughter through the performance by the huge cast ensemble. While the characters within one chapter do not interact with those of another, they present good cast ensemble and charming chemistry through their interaction with the audience (witnessing all four tales). Some come across as whimsical while others eccentric. In the instance where Allen's character introduces shower stand opera singing, it feels like a combination of both.
Technically alluring, To Rome With Love is blessed with some magnetic cinematography (that also happens to capture scenic images of Rome as a backdrop as tourism temptation) by Darius Khondji and an affecting soundtrack (including various Italian classic opera and jazz tracks)to complement Allen's homage to Rome. One key flaw through the execution as above is the inevitable lack of deeper character development due to the size of the cast involved. There is also a peculiar note on gender where the male characters seem to be taking more protagonist space on the silver screen with more substantial lines to deliver but are however portrayed as weaker personalities than their female counterparts. Male characters are mostly deliberative, paradoxical, and to a certain extent - egotistical.
Despite certain faults, To Rome With Love is truly an enjoyable relaxing summer vacation in Rome that one should consider.