Woody Allen has an indefinable way of telling stories which makes them refreshing to watch. That is one of the things which make him a great director, and over the years he has not lost his hold on this talent. Yet, there are some Allen movies which one likes and some which one doesn’t. I believe the criterion is not in the story-telling but rather the story itself.
In the case of “To Rome with Love”, it has been the latter for me. The movie has too many stories. Four. And apart from the fact that the setting of all four stories was Rome, there was only one common theme binding them all. They were all quite underdeveloped, tacky, and at times plain old boring.
▪ An American lady asks a stranger for directions and decides to marry him. Her parents arrive in Rome, and the girl’s father discovers a hidden talent in the boy’s father: the latter sings real well, only in the shower. Then follows the rather trite attempt at humor by bringing the shower to the stage. This is met with reluctance with the boy, leading to a lover’s tiff. The father nonetheless prevails, and everyone loves the singing father of the boy, although hate the idea of the father of the girl. The boy and girl patch up and everyone lives happily ever after.
▪ An Italian couple arrives in Rome from a small town for their honeymoon. Things go wrong when the wife gets lost in the city and a prostitute, rather mysteriously, lands up in the boy’s room, and then has to pretend to be the wife when the boy’s uncles accidentally catch them together. In the process, the prostitute learns of the boy’s sexual naiveté and has sex with him to ‘teach’ him a few tricks. Meanwhile, the girl has landed up in a film set, has been picked by the film star to a hotel room where things go wrong with sudden appearances of a burglar and the film star’s wife. The film star escapes, but the girl ends up having sex with the burglar. The couple reunite at the hotel room, have sex, and decide to go back home.
▪ A normal, office-going Italian gentleman, who is fond of giving opinions to all and sundry, wakes up one day to find the paparazzi at this door wanting to know everything about him – what he had for breakfast, the color of his underwear, how he shaves, everything. He is suddenly famous for no reason. Initially overwhelmed, he enjoys the fame briefly, before being bogged down by it. Then one fine day, just as soon as it had come, fame vanishes. The fellow has withdrawal symptoms, and wants to be famous again, but can’t. In his misery he meets his erstwhile chauffer, who sagely says “Both the rich and famous, and the poor and unknown are in misery, but the former may be better”
▪ A person is remembering himself thirty years back in Rome. On how he got terribly infatuated by his then girlfriend’s best friend Monica. The latter is a phony woman who poses as a connoisseur of arts, and also a sexual entrepreneur telling steamy stories and what not. The girlfriend seems oblivious of the affair between her boyfriend and best friend. The two love birds have sex in the car, and the boy decides to break up with gf, but decides to wait till the gf’s exams are over since she studied so hard! The gf indeed does well in her exams, but the day of the results, the best friend gets a job offer in Hollywood and leaves Rome.
The four stories are interwoven with each other, but they don’t gel together. Furthermore, the cinematography is not much to write about, especially given the canvas of the canvas of this glorious city. The acting is below par by many — Jesse Eisenberg (boy in story IV) still thinks he’s Mark Zuckerberg, Ellen Page (best friend in story IV) is a wannabe-vamp Juno, Roberto Benigni (man in story III) is a jumpy jitterbug, and Woody Allen (girl’s father in story I) is Woody Allen. To be fair, there are members in the troop, which include Baldwin, Cruz, Davis, who do a good job of what they get paid for.
All in all, I didn’t enjoy the movie, and at times even wondered when it’ll end.