Woody Allen can be inconsistent. He’ll release an absolute great movie, or masterpiece, then follows it up with a mess. With Midnight in Paris being so marvelous, I wasn’t going in expecting anything near that level of quality. Aside from one point in time where it was just great movie after great movie coming out; you get great, then passable. The weird thing about To Tome With Love is that it really feels like separate movies unfinished. Instead of making different movies for each one, they were all combined. I really hope Allen hasn’t made his last movie. I know he hasn’t, but someone of his magnitude should go out on a much stronger note. What makes this one of his worst, is it comes off as uninspired. It felt like a rushed idea not given thought beyond the absolute basics. It has some nice moments throughout, but just like Allen, inconsistent describes this well. No one can capture a picturesque city as beautifully as Allen does, though.
Four stories are present. The first is about Jerry (Woody Allen), a retired – pretty successful career – and is visiting Rome with his wife (Judy Davis). The purpose of the visit is to meet their daughters (Alison Pill) finance. He isn’t particularly fond of him after getting to spend time with Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). But, one-day Jerry hears Michelangelo’s father (real-life opera singer Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower; it sounds wonderful. When Jerry tries to record a demo; he can’t seem to be as great; there might be an answer staring them in the face though. A second story involves Jack (Jessie Eisenberg) falling for Monica (Ellen Page), some complications stand in the way; Alec Baldwin features in this story. The Third involves a simple story of a man trying to pass a hooker (Penelope Cruz) off as his wife. The fourth and final – and worse – is a tale about people being famous for being famous. Forgive my lack of detail in all save for the first; can’t really remember and not worth looking up for the information.
The story isn’t structured all that well. When you have completely different stories, they usually intersect somehow in the end. While this doesn’t necessarily have to happen, most of the time it’s the best thing to do; if it doesn’t, the stories should work well enough on their own. Maybe even have a similar theme. Here, there are no similarities between them in the least – all could have easily been separate movies. Every time they cut away to another story; it felt uneven. I didn’t think any of them were bad, but some were definitely better than others. By far, the most pointless story was the one dealing with fame. Every time it would cut away from another story I wouldn’t be too pleased. The best one by far is the one featuring Allen. It would have been more beneficial if all stories were cut save for Allen’s and Eisenberg’s.
Woody Allen wrote and directed. Most of his career has been a love letter to New York City; well now he’s exploring other places. I’m not going to use the term “auto pilot directing” because it would be disrespectful in this case. He just does what he usually does – all it lacks is the flare that say Midnight in Paris had. Same style with less attention to detail. The script is forty/sixty. A good deal of things seemed simply filling to achieve a certain running time. I doubt this was in anyone’s min; the best of Allen’s movies haven’t been very lengthy. Some stuff was given some thought and worked to a point. I hated characters; some though I genuinely liked. The jokes were an even split. At times, they would fall flat, but at other times you laugh – quite a bit I might add. Another mixed thing is the messages or deep dialog didn’t often work. While not an atrocious of a mess; the script and direction come out as some form of a mess.
The performances are good – not great. The standout’s are Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin. Woody Allen is of course playing himself, but he was a joy to watch. His performance elevates his lines because of his delivery. He is also the only thing that brought me consistent laughs. Baldwin is laid back and gives off some decent charisma; in short, he was likeable. Jesse Eisenberg is back playing Micheal Cera clone. Over the course of a year or two I’ve come to the conclusion he is a solid actor. Here, doesn’t showcase anything, simply passable; the same thing can be said about Ellen Page. Penelope Cruz’s character didn’t belong in the movie in the first place, and she just doesn’t seem to try at all. She coasted through. Robert Benigni, Judy Davis and Alison Pill are fine. Pill seems to be coming gout in great stuff lately – Goon, Scott Pilgrim vs the World – she’s someone to keep an eye on.
Woody Allen’s acting was the main saving grace of To Rome With Love. It was great seeing him do his thing on screen again; he can still be him extremely well. Overall, this is a mess. Jumbled ideas were just thrown around on the screen. Since I love Woody Allen movies, some positives could just be with me personally. If you aren’t a big Allen fan, don’t bother seeing this. When I mean big, I mean big. Just because you loved Midnight in Paris and Annie Hall doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same about this. However, if you find something in all of his movies – there are worse rentals. There hasn’t been an Allen film I haven’t enjoyed on some level. This is so subjective and even for those who’ll like won’t love it. Mixed feelings presented itself with my viewing. I admit; it’s somewhat entertaining. Still, it might be too subjective for its own good. By now, you can tell if this is for you or not.