Coming as it does after his vastly superior Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love has earned lots of downed thumbs. But the laughs and surprises in this patchwork of stories make it worth a viewing in spite of its problems.
First, the plot. The stories never intertwine and two of them (a minor clerk finds himself a celebrity for no reason and a man who can sing only in the shower becomes an opera star — in the shower) are absurd. I was on side with the honey-mooning bride (Allesandra Mastronardi) who gets lost in the city — until she proved to be an airhead.
Second, the cast. Jesse Eisenberg fits well as the doofus who lets himself be seduced by his girlfriend’s best friend (Ellen Page). But there are two casting mis-steps: Alec Baldwin as a narrator who lurks over Eisenberg’s shoulder giving advice and comments; and Allen himself as a retired opera producer who commits cultural blunders when he meets his daughter’s Italian fiance and his family. Things would have been better if Baldwin and Allen had switched roles and if the Baldwin-now-Allen character had commented directly into the camera.
Finally, whereas Midnight in Paris sported the magical device of linking the present to the 1920s, allowing us to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and their crowd, To Rome with Love has — nothing.
On the upside, Penelope Cruz is stunning as a smart tart hooker who finds herself posing as the missing newly-wed wife.