The best thing about being a Woody Allen fan is the certainty that if you don’t like his latest film, he’s already got another one in the oven. Following the unprecedented audience reaction to Midnight in Paris, Allen has conceived a multi-character mosaic of stories set in the Eternal City…but, sorry to say, To Rome With Love falls flat.
On the plus side, there are postcard views of Rome that make you want to book seats on the next plane. Better yet, Woody appears in this one, reviving his neurotic screen persona and tossing off very funny one-liners. But the other characters and their stories are woefully contrived, and the movie soon wears out its welcome.
Alison Pill opens the film as an American tourist who falls in love with a handsome young man, prompting her parents (Allen and Judy Davis) to visit. Alec Baldwin is a successful architect who goes in search of the street where he lived years ago and is recognized by a young architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who invites him into his home. Greta Gerwig plays Eisenberg’s girlfriend, who welcomes a neurotic pal (Ellen Page) to stay with them, despite the fact that men are always attracted to her. Roberto Benigni is an ordinary office clerk who suddenly finds himself a TV celebrity, for no apparent reason. And Penélope Cruz is a hooker who pops into the hotel room of the wrong man and winds up having to pose as his wife.
The actors do their best to make awkward scenes and dialogue ring true, but it’s a hopeless effort. Moments of farce alternate with touches of whimsy and even fantasy that never take flight.
Rather than dwell on this misfire, I prefer to think about Woody’s last film, which was so entertaining, and look forward to the next.