I headed into the preview hoping for the best but fearing the worst.
After Midnight in Paris – Allen’s best film in decades and the most commercially successful of his lengthy career – I assumed that it would be asking too much for an equally good film set in my favourite place in the world, La Bella Roma.
Well, it’s not as bad as I feared, but it’s not great either. All it really lacks is a bit more comedy. Y’know, some snappy lines like you’ll find in his early movies such as Bananas, Play it Again, Sam and Sleeper, which is where this movie fits in terms of Allen's output.
Tied together by a Roman traffic cop who claims to see everything that goes on, To Rome with Love is essentially four vignettes based in the Eternal City, some of which work better than others. Rome, as ever, offers an exquisite backdrop and it’s worth going to this movie just to bask in its magnificence.
Of the four tales, the one featuring Allen is probably the funniest. He plays a retired opera director who travels to Rome for the marriage of his daughter (Alison Pill) to a liberal Italian lawyer (Flavio Parenti). It starts out as bog-standard culture clash, until the future father-in-law (Fabio Armiliato) starts singing in the shower and Allen’s character decides to make him a star.
My favourite segment stars Alec Baldwin as an American architect lost in Trastevere trying to find where he lived when he was a student in Rome. He bumps into Jesse Eisenberg’s young architect, and ends up becoming his conscience as the latter tears himself between his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and her newly-arrived neurotic pal, played by the scene-stealing Ellen Page.
Penelope Cruz does a fine job as an obliging hooker who pretends to be the fiancé of a recent arrival in Rome, while Roberto Benigni buzzes with typical abandon as a Giuseppe Soap who inexplicably becomes a celebrity.
It’s all pretty whimsical, Rome looks as great as ever – but there are too few punchlines to rise this four-part farce above the ordinary. 'Non c'e male,' as the locals might say.