Continuing his cinematic tour of Europe, encompassing “Match Point,” “Scoop,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” and “Midnight in Paris,” among other diversions, writer/director Woody Allen arrives in Italy, where his ensemble cast courts anthology-style adventure and romance.
There’s studious, young architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who is skeptically counseled by the surreal spirit of a celebrated, older architect (Alec Baldwin) as he’s romantically torn between his steady girl-friend (Greta Gerwig) and her flirtatious actress pal (Ellen Page). Meanwhile, an ambitious businessman Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) arrives from Pordenone with his naïve bride Millie (Alessandra Mastronardi), who gets lost looking for a hairdresser and encounters a legendary, lecherous movie star (Antonio Albanese), leaving Antonio alone in the hotel room when Anna (Penelope Cruz), a brazen prostitute, barges in, followed by his judgmental, elderly relatives who mistake her for his wife. Then there’s unhappily retired American opera director Jerry (Woody Allen) who flies in with his acerbic psychiatrist wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) to join their daughter Hayley (Alison Pill) and meet her Italian fiancé Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), a left-wing lawyer whose mortician father Giancarlo (renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato) has an incredible voice -when he’s singing arias in the shower. Finally, there’s the ordinary, innocuous clerk (Oscar-winning “Life is Beautiful” Roberto Benigni), a Roman Everyman, who is stunned, then endearingly seduced by fame when he suddenly, inexplicably becomes a celebrity.
Not only does Woody Allen depict these vintage characters as absurdist stereotypes but he also recycles uneven plots and frivolous storylines, lifting an entire segment from Federico Fellini’s “The White Sheik,” in which honeymooners are separated and indulge in affairs with other lovers – and Fellini concocted the word ‘paparazzi’ in “La Dolce Vita.” While Allen’s sophisticated timeline is tenuous – some scenarios take place in one day, others stretch over weeks and never intersect – the Eternal City continually shimmers through photographer Darius Khondji’s lens, while the soundtrack combines romantic ballads and synthetic pop with operatic interludes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “To Rome With Love” is a flighty, fanciful 5, amusing but quickly forgettable.