Woody Allen is apparently on a Contiki Tour of Europe, and we’re just along for the ride. He started in Spain with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, detoured through France with Midnight in Paris and has now gone south (geographically, not artistically) with To Rome with Love. Although Penelope Cruz landed an Oscar for performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona and Woody took home the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love probably won’t get any Oscar nods at Kodak Theatre in 2013. But who cares? Clearly Woody doesn’t. He didn’t even bother to show up to the Academy Awards to collect his trophy last spring. If you only see movies so that you can sweep the office Oscar pool with your predictions, don’t bother to see To Rome with Love. If you go to the movies to have a laugh and to dream about being somewhere other than you are, than To Rome with Love is worth checking out, if only to remember the time when a younger you backpacked through Europe, threw a coin in Trevi Fountain and promised yourself you’d be back in Rome again one day. If you’re still not convinced, here are 4 reasons to check out To Rome with Love.
Ellen Page is the next Diane Keaton
If you were one of the five people who thought Juno was over-rated, then you will finally see why Ellen Page is one of the greatest actresses of our time in To Rome with Love. Page plays Monica, a struggling American actress with a small resumé and a giant ego who visits her best friend Sally (Greta Gerwig), who’s studying architecture in Rome, after a dramatic breakup. Sally teasingly warns her boyfriend Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) about Monica’s overtly sexual nature. Although he doesn’t think much about it when he first meets the mousy-haired, 5’1″ Monica, he soon starts falling for her seductive ways. Page delivers her character’s detailed lines about her past sexual conquests with such intensity that you’ll feel yourself blushing, even in the darkness of the theatre.
Penelope Cruz has yet another hidden talent
As if having two Oscars on her mantle isn’t enough to prove that Penelope Cruz is more than just a beautiful actress and a muse extraordinaire, Cruz shows American audiences once again just how talented she is by speaking entirely in Italian for her subplot in To Rome with Love. Although born and raised in Madrid, Cruz originally learned to speak Italian to win her part in 2004′s Non ti muovere (Don’t Move), which of course landed her the David di Donatello Award for Best Actress, the Italian equivalent of the Oscar. In To Rome with Love, Cruz plays Anna, an Italian prostitute whose life accidentally gets intertwined with two newlyweds, Milly and Antonio (Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi) who’ve just moved to Rome from a small town in Italy. Anna’s as neurotic and sexual as Cruz’ Maria Elena character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, minus the violent compulsions.
It’s Alec Baldwin at his best
Thank you, 30 Rock (and Tina Fey), for reminding us that Alec Baldwin is one of the greatest comedic geniuses alive. There’s no arguing that Woody Allen writes the kind of dialogue that gets audiences in stitches and has his contemporaries seething with jealousy over his wit, but in the end, it all comes down to delivery. Allen picked Alec Baldwin to play the part of a well-known architect who relives his youth by returning to Rome where he studied in his 20s — so much so that he apparently stumbles upon a younger version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg) who’s about to make a terrible romantic decision. Comedy obviously ensues as Baldwin tries unsuccessfully to intervere with the events that are bound to happen by time and, of course, male hormones. Allen has already referred to Baldwin as “a secret weapon on the screen.”
Woody Allen makes more than an appearance
Imagine meeting your future spouse overseas and then having to convince your parents to fly across an ocean to meet your fiancé and their future in-laws for the first time. Now imagine your father is Woody Allen. The moment Allen’s character appears on screen — freaking out over turbulence on a plane ride from New York to Rome — the audience gets giddy. It’s Woody being Woody, and frankly, with a legacy like his, that alone is worth the trip to the theatre. Most “serious” critics won’t love this film, but it’s a guaranteed good time. Not all of our trips to Europe have been seamless adventures. Sometimes we get lost trying to find the Catacombs in Paris or the Campo dei Fiori in Rome. Even in moments when Allen’s film seems a little misguided or confused, it’s hard not to just sit back and think to yourself, “Hey, at least were lost in Rome.”
Photo Courtesy of: Sony Classics