Wednesday, 21 August 2013

To Rome with Love

Lowdown: Varied stories to do with love and fame, all taking place in Rome.
At first I found them inspiring. Then I was jealous. Now I feel contempt towards all those movies where the heroes go to some exotic city and live there for an extended period, find themselves, and then come back home to a rejuvenated life. Good on you, mates; the rest of us weren’t born to parents rich enough to be able to afford such a luxury. And, while at it, how did you get the necessary visa in the first place?
In his sins, Woody Allen seems to have embraced the genre. He took us to Barcelona and Paris already; now he took me To Rome with Love. Me, I actually didn’t enjoy my real visit to Rome much, constantly noting how people were eyeing my bag & I with clear intentions of making mine theirs. Sure, they have their Piazza Pizzas, but who cares when I’m unable to feel safe? Clearly, Allen started off on the wrong foot as far as I was concerned.
It seemed like he was continuing on the wrong foot once the movie got going. We are introduced to numerous characters, often portrayed by famous actors, and we follow as their unrelated stories progress. Since we have been primed to do so, we keep on looking for connections between the stories, waiting for them to intersect; I kept on doing so for too long before it became clear Rome was to be the main and probably the only common ground. This constant searching for a meaning was actually worse, because some stories were powered purely by their lack of meaning!
To recount some of the tales from the top of my head, we have ourselves a young, recently married, Italian couple from the sticks coming to the big city only to get separated as the wife loses her way in Rome’s streets looking for a hairdo. She ends up mingling with an older movie star, he ends up confused with a professional prostitute (the ever excellent PenĂ©lope Cruz). Then we have a Roman simpleton (Roberto Benigni) who, one morning, finds himself getting chased everywhere by flocks of paparazzi; neither he nor us knows why. We have a young American female fall in love with a local socialist Roman, and as they decide to get engaged their parents (Judy Davis and the man himself, Woody Allen) come visiting from the States. Then Allen discovers the father of his soon to be son in law has unique singing talents, and starts pushing that father to embark on a new professional career. Oh, and there’s a veteran American architect who designed plenty of shopping malls (Alec Baldwin) coming to visit the Rome area he spent a year of his younger days at. That architect meets a budding American architect at a similar Roman stage of life, and that budding architect (Jesse Eisenberg) has his girlfriend’s best friend (Ellen Page) over. Things happen between them.
Confused already? I certainly was. Revelation came relatively late as I realized I need to stop analysing this as a movie and start thinking about To Rome with Love as a Woody Allen movie. The two are not the same! Ultimately it became clear that this one is a statement made by an old man, a guy who has been there and done that, essentially telling us not to take life too seriously and to embrace love. At the same time, he ponders the virtues and vices of fame. As I said, a Woody Allen film.
Best scene: An opera is performed on stage with the main singer performing while having a shower, because that's the only way he can sing.
Overall: I’ll go up on a limb here and give To Rome with Love 3.5 out of 5 stars. Not because it’s the best film ever and not because I agree with what its messages. I do it because To Rome with Love managed to break cinema conventions long enough to make me ponder it much more than I do the average movie. Surely, such a feat should be rewarded, shouldn’t it?

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