Woody Allen continues to look outside New York for his latest movies. This offering from 2012 sees Allen in Rome with an ensambled cast in a mixture of comedy, romance and a bit of magical realism.
The film focuses on four different stories. One about an American theatre director (Woody Allen) whose finds his future son in law’s father (Fabio Armiliato) is a talented opera singer, but who could only sing in one particular circumstance. The second focuses on a young newley-wed Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) who wants his wife Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) to make a good impression on his relatives. The third is about a clerk Leopoldo (Robert Benigni) who is amazed to find himself an instant clebrity overnight. While the fourth sees an architect John (Alec Baldwin) wonder around his old neighbourhood and meets Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who is possibly a younger version of himself, and appears to Jack at odd moments offering insights and warnings about his love life.
This is an uneven movie that suffers from having four stories that differ in quality. So while some are funny and engaging others a bit dull or go on way too long. The best story focuses on Baldwin’s John, who inexplicitly appears in Jack’s life and speaks to Jack and sometimes his girlfriends with observations on whats going on. Jack is torn between two women, devoted girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her seductive best friend Monica (Ellen Page). Even though it’s obvious to the audience and John that Monica is a pretentious fraud, Jack gets drawn further and further into her web. Baldwin has fun as he makes snide comments at Monica and tries, in vain, to save Jack from his enevitable fate. Page also has fun playing a character thats is so self-obsessed while trying to appear intellegent and knowledgeable.
The next best is the story with Woody Allen. Yes Allen plays again a nurotic American, but he’s got this rotuine down well by now so it’s fun so see. It starts off with a culture clash of two future in-laws meeting each other and then changes into Allen trying trying to make a star out of his future in-law. There are some sterotypes in both sets of family but the jokes are funny enough to move past these failings.
Things start to get less funny with the newley-weds story. There are some amusing moments as bride Milly gets lost in Rome and Antonio is forced to take a prostitute (it makes sense in context) to meet his aunts and uncles. Penelope Cruz as the prostitue is very funny but the storyline soon looses momentum as it progresses.
The worst of the four is the clerk who finds himself a celebrity overnight. This is obviously meant to be a comment on people who are famous for doing nothing, but it is a one joke section, and the joke wears very thin very easily. It also bludgeons you over the head with it’s moral outrage that stops you from caring about the clerk’s plight.It also does not help that he is isn’t a very likeable character. In fact most of the characters in all the stories are not sympathetic and a lot of them, especially the women are heavily stereotyped.
Perhaps if Allen had focused on just one story than four this film would have had more fleshed out characters and been a funnier movie. As it stands it’s an uneven film which doesn’t leave with much of a lasting impression. Although it does serve as a great advertisement for the city of Rome, as it looks stunning.
Rating 2/5 – a mixed bag of stories which although it has it’s moments, leaves you with a rather average movie