Monday, March 4, 2013

To Rome With Love - Movie Review

'To Rome With Love' is Woody Allen's latest. Not surprisingly it is set in Rome. But then like other Woody Allen movies of recent times it is leaving me a little lost - as if I am listening in on a private joke. There were long stretches of dialogue in Italian which is a language I do not understand so I was left trying to make sense of the movie from whatever I could see and hear. Nothing much to show from my end, I must confess.

It is a difficult movie to review, to retell. Enough to say that it is about several people and several stories happening in Rome. One is that of a young American tourist who falls in love with an Italian lawyer and they decide to get married. The American girl's father (Woody Allen) and mother arrive to meet their future in-laws. The boy's father is a mortician who sings well while scrubbing himself in the shower. Allen who is a retired opera director believes that the mortician in-law has a voice that can make him a star. The mortician's family does not like these ideas. But Woody convinces him to audition - which ends as a disaster. But Woody does not give up and realises that the mortician can sing well in a shower. He gets him to perform operas on stage, singing in a shower. There is some success and then the mortician goes back to his work. Funny in a weak way. Nothing really impressive about this story.

Then come a young couple to Rome on honeymoon. The girl goes out to the salon before the boy's relatives arrive to take them to lunch. She gets lost. A prostitute lands up at the young man's room by mistake and when the relatives enter, they find their nephew in a mistakenly compromising position with the prostitute. The young man convinces them that the prostitute is really his newly wed wife. She plays along. Meanwhile the lost wife stumbles upon a film shooting of her favorite actor who instantly starts seducing her. In the end the prostitute sleeps with the boy and the girl is all set to sleep with her favorite actor, but ends up sleeping with a thief. Oh, finally, the couple gets together and sleep together too. Unimpressive story. Penelope Cruz was fantastic as the prostitute and the time when all her clients meet her at the hotel brings on a few smiles.

Then come the young architect and his ordinary girlfriend. He meets a famous American architect visiting Rome (he spent some time there as a student thirty years ago). Now the young architect's girlfriend brings home a friend of hers known to give off sexual vibes to men. Against all odds (really?) the boyfriend and the sexy girlfriend hit it off, have sex in the car, and decide to hook up together. Just as they are on the verge the sexy girlfriend gets a part in a movie and she dumps the new boyfriend and goes away. What is the architect doing in this story? Nothing, except that he keeps popping up in every intimate scene, warning the young architect against the sexy girlfriend. Boring story that brings back moments of deja vu.

Then comes the most boring of the lot. Fully in Italian. A clerk in an office suddenly becomes a celebrity. I don't know how and why. But he is hounded by the paparazzi, gets a promotion, gets new girlfriends. One day they lose interest in him and he is missing their attention. He does everything - even take off his clothes - just to sign an autograph and is grateful when someone recognises him. Anyway he goes back home. Boring.

Of all the Woody Allen movies I saw, this was by far the worst. His usual fun element was missing and some themes looked repetitive causing feelings of staleness. Also his disarming honesty normally shows the paradox - missing in this movie totally. The whole idea never comes together and one wonders what Woody was thinking when he got it all together. Perhaps he had it in his head as stuff he had seen and retained about Rome which is why it all begins to sound like a personal joke. I also did not understand Italian and would have loved some sub titles. Could easily give this one a miss. I wish I had.

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