Weekly Movie Review: To Rome With Love: Fame, Temptation and Disillusions.

So although the title indicates that this will become a weekly ritual, it will most likely convert itself into a monthly one. Nevertheless, I wish to announce that I have now officially returned, after not posting anything for many weeks. I started this blog partly as a procrastination device during my exam revision period but then realized that I should probably buckle down to work and leave the blog alone for some time. The intensity and stress of exams has now passed and I’ve even had plenty of time to celebrate. So here goes for my next post:


I’ve actually watched more than one movie this week, including “The Snow Walker” which was also a very decent movie, but I thought I would focus on the more thought-provoking, powerful “To Rome with Love” film, directed by the 76 year-old Woody Allen as it is more recent and sends out a lot of symbolic messages to the world. It might appear a little over-ambitious and presumptuous of me to even attempt to write a review on a movie directed by such a legend, especially considering that I accidentally watched the whole thing without any subtitles despite a huge amount of the dialogue being in Italian (which because of my Spanish understanding and my experience of having lived with an Italian flatmate meant that I could pretty much follow everything but still limited my understanding to some degree).

Although the following contains some spoilers, the structure of the film is based on fragmented intertwining stories and because my review will be more thematic and analytic, rather than plot-based, reading it will most likely not interfere or impede on your enjoyment of the movie if you haven’t already seen it)

First of all, I might just say that I find it a little pretentious of Allen to be using the success of “Match Point”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris” to continue his little tour of Europe and his stereotypical portrayal of all these nations. Unlike most critics, I was undeniably more forgiving about Woody’s portrayal of Italy than that of France, but that is most likely the simple result of my French nationality and my overall ignorance concerning Italian culture and society. However, his tendency to overlook all the profound socio-political issues that are currently deeply rooted throughout Europe is unforgivable for a large majority of Italian journalists. These movies never accurately portray the Spanish, the French, or in this case, the Italians, but always have to revolve around the life of American tourists who have come to discover the specific culture and history  of the country and somehow end up meeting a couple of passionate, carefree natives. Luckily, Allen uses this as a tool in his most recent movie, almost to criticize the simplistic american outlook on Europe, and more poignantly by casting himself, after a long screen absence, as one of these neurotic characters who only wishes to utilize the beauty and talent of an Italian mortician’s voice for lucrative purposes and ends up misinterpreting the critics as a positive compliment to his ego.

Indeed, a satirical depiction of the absurd and frivolous nature of fame is progressively constructed throughout the film. Woody Allen’s character, Jerry, is desperate to find talent within other people in order to exploit it and exhibit it to the rest of the world and yet at the end, only the discovered singer will get the credit for his performance. The situation in which Leopoldo’s character (Roberto Benigni) find himself successfully caricatures the endless obsessive harassment of the press towards celebrities, their absurd interest in the most trivial, mundane aspects of these people’s lives and the ephemerality of the duration of fame. Fame has no concrete basis and the sway of the public interest changes as quickly and with as much unpredictability as the wind.  Yet once his fame has died down and the feeling of suffocation has dissipated, Leopoldo craves his  former attention and loses his mind over it. Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) is willing to risk her relationship with her boyfriend by cheating on him with a perverse, overweight famous film star that she admires despite his complete lack of interest in anything but her body and youth.

Woody Allen also evokes the theme of the opposition between youth and old-age with his own character representing a man who is struggling to keep a grip on his career and is incapable of accepting his state of retirement and enjoying the relaxing holidays in Rome. Alec Baldwin’s character (John), literally meets his past-self, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), whilst taking a walk down memory lane and gradually takes on the role of a semi-omniscient character or Jack’s subconscious who  is confusingly also able to converse individually with other characters. Full of regret, he is constantly trying to re-write his past by dissuading his younger version from committing the inevitable mistake of falling under the charm of yet another american, Monica (Ellen Page), who’s superficial sensibility for Italian art and poetry is perceived as irresistible but who also turns out to be a self-centered actress.

However, aside from these poignant statements, the rest of the movie feels like a random collage of unrelated stories that have little to do with Rome, that don’t share the same time frame and that seem to have been hurriedly pulled out of his “idea drawer” and assembled together as coherently as possible. Unlike in the popular Hollywood movies such as “Valentine’s day” or “Love actually”, barely any of these characters and plots ever overlap with each other. Nevertheless, it is still worth a watch for its moments of wit and charm. In a way, this lack of relatedness between plots is refreshing as it reflects a more plausible reality of the co-existence yet independence between a wide variety of different dramatic human relationships.  Although not as breath-taking as his most successful movies, by casting himself as Jerry, he seems to be demonstrating his indifference towards negative critics and his determination to retire when the time comes, as a personal decision, rather than a simple cowardly surrender. Woody Allen even put this desire into words during a later interview:  “I can’t see myself retiring and fondling a dog every day. I like to get up and work and go out. I have too much energy or too much nervous anxiety or something, so I don’t see myself retiring. Maybe I will suddenly get a stroke or a heart attack and I will be forced to retire, but if my health holds out I don’t expect to retire.”

Ratings :  

  • IMDB:   6.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes:   5.4/10
  • Allociné :   2.9/5