Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

To Rome With Love

To Rome with Love—Written and Directed by Woody Allen/Starring Woody Allen (Jerry), Flavio Parenti (Michelangelo), Roberto Benigni (Leoplodo), Alison Pill (Hayley), Alessandro Tiberi (Antonio), Judy Davis (Phyllis), Allessandra Mastronardi (Milly), Alec Baldwin (John), Ellen Page (Monica),Penelope Cruz (Anna)/Greta Gerwig (Sally) and Jesse Eisenberg (Jack)/Rated R/1hr35min Bifocal Reviews By Barbara Rich and the Other Guy (B) Having just returned from vacationing in Italy made this film even more meaningful to me. I was surprised to see so many subtitles, but being of Italian decent, I welcomed it. The film lost nothing because of the beautiful flow of this romantic language, besides you can see with your eyes what is happening. Italians, as they say, talk with their body. This movie might just cross over and be a candidate for a foreign film award and is so Woody Allen. After all, he is the writer, director and one of the many stars. Woody just gets better with age. Early on I was not a big fan, but last year’s Midnight in Paris and this year’s To Rome With Love has given me a new appreciation. Uniquely funny situations with Roberto Benigni were sidesplitting. Another memorable situation with Woody’s character going to Rome to meet his prospective son-in-law provided many laugh-out-loud moments. All the cast of characters found themselves in common situations amplified by the genius of Woody Allen. If you want to “forget your troubles come on get happy” this is the movie to see. Alec Baldwin is wonderful as a kind of Roman chorus, along with some other characters who speak to the audience and to other characters while the action is taking place. I recommend this film, if for nothing else, the trip to Italy. Beautiful country. I give it three binoculars, or as the Italians would say “Molto Bene!” (OG) Maybe it’s just the fact that this was a Woody Allen film—I LOVE Woody Allen-- and I was programed to like it from the outset. On the other hand, that’s exactly what this film was about…perspective. Woody Allen holds up the quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies of being human like a mirror where he stands in front of it with us. He never leaves himself out of the reflection because, he knows, in the end that even though he is a celebrity, the director and a great comic writer…he’s just one of us. That’s the central theme and the strength of this film and most of those where Woody is allowed to be Woody. I think that the last two films are refined and improved versions of some of his previous classics that may have been a little ahead of their time for some audiences. Play It Again, Sam and Bananas come to mind as two previous Allen films that allowed him to explore basic human themes released from the bounds of reality. His comic imagination is allowed to soar in To Rome With Love on so many levels. It is a series of loosely bound stories of lovers and celebrity in what is called The Eternal City. Everything is based upon perspective, though. The movie starts, as if a series of vignettes are being presented by a traffic cop—he talks directly to the camera, so it’s easy to see why this is the case. The film ends with a different guy opening a window onto the street where the original scenes take place. He has a whole different view of the same city, and wants to tell different stories about the people there. In To Rome with Love the stories have very little connection to one another and within each, we are continuously being asked to suspend “just a little bit of disbelief” for the sake of the overall impact. When a character (who has yet to come on camera) is spoken of as “really beautiful and sexy” we assume it is going to be Penelope Cruz, but when the “actress” arrives, it is Ellen Page. No slight on Page, but she is no Cruz. In another story, a newlywed, played brilliantly by Allessandra Mastronardi, is seduced by a fat, balding actor who she says “is the most sexy” man alive! Then, Benigni (who we are told at the outset is completely average and uninteresting) becomes the star of a reality show, who can’t stand fame, but hates it worse when he looses the spotlight. For me, the funniest bit was how Woody’s character decides to do an opera with a man he heard singing in the shower. As he turns out, like many of us, he can ONLY sing while in the shower. So, Woody decides to put on a production with this guy standing naked, under running water. It’s hilarious and would be worth the price of admission, even if the rest of the film weren’t great! I am giving this one four binoculars, and I don’t speak any Italian.

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