To Rome with Love – Movie Review

This isn’t Woody Allen greatest comedy but it is imbued with his increasingly warm view of people and the world and his favorite subjects – love, relations and types.

He nails it all from the hefty man giving directions via food stands, the creepy sex symbol who seduces young women, young men discovering lust, older men instructing younger men on pulling birds and the conversation that replaces lust in longer relationships.  He covers the entire playbook in two hours, deliciously and gently.

It’s all so familiar, pure Allen, this time set in the dazzlingly sensuous, golden city of Rome.   The music, the familiar names on the credits, even Allen’s standard Windsor type face reminds us we are in the hands of the master and a pleasant, and entertaining, sophisticated couple of hours lie ahead.  You have been able to take that to the bank for nearly forty five years.

He owns the film’s best moments as New York classical music promoter Jerry, in Rome to meet his daughter’s Italian boyfriend.   But first he has to survive the flight.  Allen’s persona rarely changes and there is a comfort and an easy smile watching him, lo these many years.   This is the first time I have noticed him ageing in a film and it gave me pause that this great talent won’t be around forever.  

It’s his first acting gig since Scoop, six years ago.   There was loud sustained laughter as Jerry denounces psychiatry and psychiatrists.   He famously was under care most of his adult life, until he married his step daughter Soon Yee Previn fifteen years ago.

Allen’s continues to cast his standard types – of-the-moment ingénues – this time Alison Pill, solid middle aged males – Alec Baldwin,  a regular – Judi Davis as his wife,  and colorful local characters – so many, with special notice for narrator / traffic cop Pierluigi Marchionne.  

There are the stiff social lions, the rebellious young, the middle aged confused, all there increasing our sense of familiarity and fun.

An American girl has met a Roman and after a whirlwind romance agrees to marry him.  Her parents fly over to meet him and his family.  His father as Jerry discovers, is a remarkable singer, but only in the shower.  This leads to the kind of surreal situation Allen is so skilled at creating, like his mother’s disapproving face floating over Manhattan, or Zelig’s upside down ankles.   Killer.

Meanwhile another American (Jesse Eisenberg) is  busily reassuring his wife that he won’t fall in love with his wife’s sexy, sly girlfriend (Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page, respectively) coming to visit to get over a breakup.   Alec Baldwin is his conscience, following him around, whispering from over his shoulder, warning him about girls like that. 

An ordinary Roman man, a husband, father and insurance clerk, is suddenly famous.   Out of the blue, news and reality TV cameras are following his every move, screaming about what he eats for breakfast, how he shaves, a not-so-subtle reference to the inane stupidity of reality shows and instant fame, fame for being famous.   Just as he starts to get used to the perks, the cameras abandon him, like that!

The characters’ adventures in Rome give us a kind of romantic travelogue, taking us to places visitors don’t normally see, while savoring a different pace of life.  This is Woody Allen: Later Years classic – he seems to express a greater contentment while retaining that wit and wonderfully skewed world view.

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35mm comedy
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Opens: July 6
Runtime: 105 minutes
MPAA: Rated R for some sexual references
Country: US / Italy
Language: English / Italian