Friday, September 07, 2012

The Eternal Woody


                Woody Allen's latest movie, "To Rome With Love", continues his tour around Europe (London, Barcelona, Paris) bringing us to the capital of Italy, The Eternal City. It's envisioned as a collage of four separate stories taking place in Rome. The themes which the stories explore are classical Woody. Love, fame, culture, sex, art, fear of death, insecurity and lots more. The problem is, although nearly every Allen's movie tells the same (or similar) story, they're not all equally good. And this one isn't one of his better works.

                The main problem I found with it was a lack of coherence. Allen jumps from story to story seemingly without any plan or structure and, as if that wasn't enough, some stories seem to unfold over a period of a week or so while other take place during one day. It gives the impression that Woody didn't care enough to put it all together in some logical way and that's disappointing. Add to that some uninspired acting (bigger part of the cast and this time even Woody himself), unsuccessful recycling of his previous work (Woody again, that is, his character) and a sketch-like feel of the movie, and you could think Allen' s time has passed.

                Fortunately, the movie has its bright spots too. A sketch with a man who can only sing under the shower turns out to be hilarious when his son's father in law Jerry (Allen) puts on a version of "Pagliacci" with a shower cabin in the center of the stage. One more thing which should be noted about that segment is Judy Davis playing Jerry's wife. It's been a while since she starred in an Allen movie (almost fifteen years) and she's great fun to watch here so I hope we'll see her again soon. There's also Penelope Cruz, whom it's always nice to see, playing a prostitute teaching a young provincial boy a trick or two and improving what is one of weaker movie segments along the way (although not considerably). But the best acting is seen in the only segment which feels like it has a story. Jesse Eisenberg plays a young architect living in Rome with his girlfriend but slowly falling for her friend played by Ellen Page. There's also Alec Baldwin in a now I'm here/now I'm not/am I even real? kind of role, but I'm gonna leave that one for you to figure out. Eisenberg and Page are fantastic. They both play more or less typical Allen's characters but this time those characters are unusually young which makes them even more interesting. Jack (Eisenberg) falls for Monica (Page) even though he knows he can't have a serious relationship with her and gets swept off his feet with her smart remarks and quotations although he knows she's a fake (or, as Allen wonderfully put it, a con artist). Monica (who's an actress) on the other hand seems to fake everything but does it with so much sincerity that you can't help getting intrigued by her, and the credit for that goes to Page.

                In  Allen's latest movies cities turn out to be one of the main characters and I expected that here too, but didn't get it (I don't know if it was supposed to be that way at all though). There are few sightseeing shots but for most of the movie you couldn't say if it is happening in Rome or any other Mediterranean city, which suggests that the movie didn't live up to it's title. Nevertheless, it seems the combination of Woody Allen and Europe simply can't completely fail. The movie has its charm, not diminished by any of its flaws, and is pleasant to watch. But why am I writing so much? In my experience there are two groups of people, those who love Woody Allen and those who don't. The second ones probably won't bother  to read about an Allen movie, and those belonging to the first group know they're gonna watch every new Woody Allen movie no matter what. And that's perhaps Allen's greatest accomplishment.

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