Even if it's lesser Woody Allen, it's still Woody, they wrote, and they were right; we are still under his spell. To Rome With Love (2012) was in fact one of the easiest projects to fund till now for the workaholic director who feels obliged to produce once per year, even if there's nothing special to say. Some of his Italian distributors proposed to provide him with the budget for his new film at once, with one condition: it ought to be filmed in Rome. Who would object to that? Not Woody. So, here we go, we have one more "lesser Woody" film, but one more "tour de force" regarding the cast.
No matter how contradicting, the lesser and older Woody finds it essential to give us films packed with big names, playing not the most intricate characters in an even less meticulously made scenario. Not really paradoxicaI, if you come to think about it; I guess he assumes, what he grew , alas, tired of i.e. playing with tight dialogue, highly humoristic lines and smart concepts can be replaced by the glee of his randomly aggregated stars, and let me assure you, no-one says no to Woody. How else can I explain the co-existence of a blond (and quite plump) version of Alec Baldwin in the same scene with Ellen Page? And what is Penelope Cruz doing the next moment as an Italian prostitute with the creme-de-la-creme of a clientele? What about Roberto Benigni as the Italian-next-door who becomes a TV persona out of the blue? And how can we find the Judy Davis (years past Barton Fink) - Woody Allen coupling convincing, especially with naive sweetheart Alison Pill as a daughter? I mean, apparently, those two as seen on screen would never end up with such an all-smiling, kind creature, would they?
In general, those brave teaming-ups are doomed to fail, even the more when a minimum of time is invested on rehearsals. Awkward moments with actors delivering lines with no feeling or engagement whatsoever; total eclipse of chemistry, which is a must in ensemble acting; funny situations that could be part of a line produced rom-com. No, don't be deceived, it's Woody indeed. The new Woody, the bold and the beautiful, the fizzy one, whose bubbles last only for tonight's cocktail party.
Don't get me wrong, I liked the film overall. That singing-in-the-shower part was ok, as well as some of Benigni's gig. There are good-looking Italian actors and actresses everywhere, which was a plunge in classic beauty indeed. Alessandra Mastronardi who is stealing hearts in the recent Italian version of Titanic (2012) is there, very convincing as an innocent, but curious small-town girl; beau Flavio Parenti, too, Antonio Albanese, even Ornella Muti in a cameo as (almost) herself. Then, there's Rome, irresistible and picturesque -the film was running in Italy since April, quite successfully. Still, the question remains: is that all there is in Woody nowadays? Ordinary people falling in love, making love, being narcissistic and so on, so forth? Where has all the wit gone?