To Rome With Love directed and written by Woody Allen (Medusa Film, Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions, R, 112 minutes)

Starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Page.

The Woody Allen Equivalent

I haven’t seen New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day for that matter, but to me, To Rome with Love feels like the Woody Allen equivalent.

Much like his recent work, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris, it seems as if Woody Allen has settled on Europe for his semi-retirement years, making movies for whatever city he happens to inhabit at any given time.

Unlike the critically acclaimed Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris, To Tome with Love feels rushed, overwrought, under-acted, and unnecessary.

Unrelated Vignettes

Set, obviously, in Rome, To Rome with Love offers 4 separate vignettes with varying degrees of surrealism. Some of the stories are rather humorous—there’s a funeral director whose voice scales the pinnacle of beauty only when he’s in the shower on stage, or an everyman who magically becomes a celebrity. Other stories tap into the romantic magic of Rome and its effect on people.

But none of these stories relate and no overarching theme emerges.

“This Is Rome!”

Here is where I imagine: To Rome with Love resembles the cheesy romantic comedies, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. For starters, these films have an overstuffed actor bill. Not only does such an ensemble cast require relatively equal roles and screen time, making it hard to discern a leading role, but also a large chunk of the budget slides away from the writers in these instances. Thus, the quality of the plot and even the dialogue dwindles.

Moreover, telling stories through vignettes means none of them have time to develop. Allen cuts and pastes between stories and the viewer never grows to adore anyone on the screen. Instead, the viewer tries to link back to the previous part of the storyline absent from the screen for the last 20 minutes.

Finally, it felt as if To Rome with Love exists so that everyone could see Rome. The dialogue felt like an extended proclamation of “This is Rome.” That’s not a foundation for a movie.

The dolce far niente style of the current Woody Allen brand has found success in past films. But with To Rome With Love, the formula did not transfer. Steer clear.

Verdict: 1.5 out of 5

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