Woody Allen at it again

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Woody Allen’s latest film has a star-studded cast, including Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg. – Image courtesy of Perdido Productions

After the success of “Midnight in Paris,” it seems Woody Allen liked the idea of using a famous and historic European city as the setting for a film. In “To Rome With Love” the one central plot point for all the stories is the city.

The film is four stories, at some points five, as one story splits in two for a while. There’s a clerk who becomes inexplicably famous, a newly-wed couple who become separated on their honeymoon, a shower-singer who becomes an operatic-sensation and an architect with a romantic dilemma and what appears to be a semi-visible friend.

While romance, cheating, sex and fame are themes touched on often by each story, there isn’t much that ties them together. The characters never interact with people from the other plots, they don’t all visit the same site and it’s not even clear how long each story is. One appears to take place over an afternoon or day, while others could be days or weeks, and another has to be months.

While Allen has never found the constrains of logic particularly binding, it does leave the audience wondering at times. Of course, there are plenty of scenes, dialogue and cinematography to charm us, winning us over with quick wit, clever shots and twisty plots. It lacks the grandeur of a film and the jumping back and forth between stories seems unnecessary since they aren’t linked in anyway. There isn’t a culminating scene where they all tie together, so why not put them one after another and not leave the audience waiting for that moment?

Aside from that, it’s a Woody Allen film, full of great lines and put-downs, absurd moments and plot twists that leave reality behind.

There’s also a great deal of referential humour for those well-educated in literature, art and the more high-class cultural interests, but while it’s fun to hear an Ezra Pound line slipped in, it seems the references are less homage to the originator and more often used as the set up to an insult.

The characters come off pretty self-absorbed most of the time. The Italian actors introduced to North American audiences are great and international star Roberto Benigni has the strongest single performance as the bewildered clerk. In general, the Italian language plots seem more relatable than the egotistical Americans, but that’s Allen’s style lately.

In short, “To Rome With Love” is not Allen’s finest work. If you’ve seen “Midnight in Paris” and enjoyed the European scenery as a background/almost a character, “To Rome With Love” is a passable follow-up. If you haven’t seen “Midnight in Paris,” watch that first.