Philippe Antonello, Associated Press
"TO ROME WITH LOVE" — ★★ — Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Druz, Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin; R (sexual references); Broadway
If it's a zinger capped by the phrase "leper colony," if there's a hotel room being broken into by house detectives, if it's Penelope Cruz spilling out of an outfit borrowed from Mira Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite," then it's time for the new Woody Allen film.
His latest overseas postcard, "To Rome With Love," lacks the clean lines and payoffs of "Midnight in Paris." On the other hand, it's not painful the way "Whatever Works" was, or a dullard in the "Cassandra's Dream" vein. What can we learn from this? Allen probably makes too many movies. This one's OK. He'll make more.
Allen's casting prowess remains unparalleled, wherever his projects are shot. Many tales compete for the frame here. In one, Jesse Eisenberg receives relationship advice and counsel from Alec Baldwin as Eisenberg's character is pulled into the vortex of neurotic allure represented by Ellen Page, the visiting friend of Greta Gerwig's.
In another, Roberto Benigni is the husband and father who inexplicably becomes the object of paparazzi lust and unwarranted fame. In a third, writer-director Allen and a deeply mannered Judy Davis play parents visiting their daughter (Alison Pill) who's fallen in love with the son (Flavio Parenti) of a Roman undertaker (Fabio Armiliato). The undertaker boasts a gorgeous operatic tenor voice, catnip to the ears of the unhappily retired opera director and music producer played by Allen. But he sings like an angel only in the shower; outside the shower, all is belabored effort.
At the end of the Benigni episode, Allen's thoughts on the burden and peculiarity of celebrity are laid out neatly: Fame is a drag, but it's preferable to remaining "poor" and "unknown."
"To Rome With Love" is rated R for some sexual references; running time: 112 minutes.
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