To Rome with Love – Part 2




The most interesting strand involves Alec Baldwin as a gifted artisan, wasting his talent on designing shopping malls, strolling though the back streets reminiscing about his gap year decades ago, when he stumbles on student Jesse Eisenberg there’s a look of recognition and soon Baldwin is sagely offering advice to the lovestruck youth, torn between his live-in girlfriend Greta Gerwig (utterly wasted) and her seductive best pal Ellen Page.  There’s a fascinating premise hidden underneath the usual Allen mannerisms and stock characterisations concerning the emotional scripts we live by and how we’re the sum of our experiences, supported by sly sarcasm mixed with genuine pathos from Baldwin.  It’s a shame that Eisenberg is forced to play the Allen surrogate (he even uses them in films he stars in!) and Page’s actress vamp has no ultimately redeeming qualities other than her sex appeal.  Although I confess Allen might be using that to underline the unreliable narrative of memory –


On the other end of the scale, in that the concept seems cliched, is the neurotic adventures of Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi.  Arriving for the first time in Rome, their Honeymoon also needs to double up as an interview for Tiberi, when he introduces his wife to the disapproving in-laws who run the family business (no, I don’t believe it’s an Olive Oil import company).  When Mastronardi nips out for a haircut she gets hopelessly lost in the big city and (in a nod to classic Commedia dell’arte stories) local call girl Penelope Cruz gets drafted in to impersonate her.  Hijinks ensue.  As I’ve said before Allen should be applauded for trying something different here, but his erudite script, even when translated, is too wordy to allow the inevitable bedhopping any momentum, in spite of how hard the cast are working.


Roberto Benigni gets his chance to shine in the segment addressing the sham of celebrity, morphing from incredulous to bitterness to craving his fifteen minutes of fame with ease, but alas the segment messages are hammer home by some needlessly profound speeches from his chauffeur.  Finally the segment involving Allen himself boasts a shrewdly bitchy turn from Judy Davis but the opera in the shower plot and cheap national stereotyping makes it the one to skip through on the DVD.


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