Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love is the latest in his series of cinematic love letters to his favorite European cities. Allen’s latter portion of his career has seen a renaissance in terms of inspiration and fresh takes on familiar, yet intriguing, themes (Whatever Works excluded). This film comes on the heels of his greatest box office success of his career, Midnight in Paris. Consequently, To Rome with Love becomes a sort of paradox. On one hand, it’s nice to see Woody Allen enjoying some major attention again, but like so many of Allen’s characters, it would be terrible to see that attention affect his outlook or disposition since this film will no doubt be compared to Midnight in Paris. After ‘Midnight’s‘ success, the anticipation level for Allen’s next film was higher than average since it charmed so many people, many of which were not typical Woody Allen fans. This film meets that anticipation with bizarre unease, as it may not satisfy many of Allen’s recent converts, which is exactly what it needs to do.
Allen has blended his new Euro-flare with a picaresque film that feels very much like that of his satirical style of earlier days rather than the more playful mood of recent. To me, this is great. I enjoy Woody Allen’s skewed and informed views on love, celebrity, and fate; it’s a gift to fans. The film is composed of four unrelated stories that do not really intersect or even exist in the same time frame, yet the viewer is challenged to deconstruct them down to their thematic commonalities. When all is said and done, each story presents a separate character study and morality play, each seamlessly jumping back and forth without losing the viewer. Some stories are stronger than others, but all have something to say worth saying, and they all offer at least one good solid laugh. I think Ellen Page’s character Monica stands out as the most intriguing. Monica’s sexually charged wildly independent character is talked about before she appears, and the set up does not lead one to think “Ellen Page.” She is very well written and Page is great delivering Allen’s characteristically faux-intellectual free spirit female artist dialogue. Ironically, over-analysis is not what To Rome With Love deserves, although analysis is a major theme. It should not be compared to Midnight in Paris, but rather it should rest on its own merits which are substantial. B+