Hollywood heretic Woody Allen makes a sardonic poke calling his films as 'foreign films' - in his latest offering To Rome with Love. This 'city film' in the series comes as no surprise where Allen plays the role of Jerry, a retired opera director. What humiliates him is the mid-air turbulence, fear of death that comes in the form of retirement, and what lurches him is his future son-in-law Michelangelo whose mind is infested with communistic ideology. Allen should be cognizant of the fact that we have seen such bored-with-life, distraught self-portrayal in his earlier films - something nurtured to perfection in his film Hollywood Ending. Judy Davis plays Allen's wife, Jerry, a psychiatrist, who deals with her husband's neurotic condition with an inscrutable pessimism. Had she handed over her husband's case to Sigmund Freud, he would term him not as a man with ego or superego, but a man with multiple identities.\r
Hope you have noticed the depth in my writing; the same is the case with Woody Allen's characters in To Rome with Love.They become invariably enigmatic at times leaving no scope to delve into them. If you are a fan of Allen and his works, you involuntarily compare this film with his previous works that showcase cities with an impeccable eye for detail. Be it the discerning Vicky Cristina Barcelona or the entrancing Midnight in Paris. But Allen's tribute to Rome lacks fizz, even half-cooked, because he has no contemplation on the city itself - Mr. Allen, couple of Italian middle-class couples don't make 'the colossal' Rome. For that matter they can be pegged in any backdrop - New York, London or New Delhi.\r
Despite all these you can see the classy touch of Woody Allen. This man with the multiple hues of a writer, director, actor and playwright has been making films for four decades, and all these movies have his consummate hallmark. It seems he finally found his muse in 'city film'genre. Out of his films, many are reveries on urban phoniness and the ever-lasting combat between novelty and non-conformism, creativity and commercialism, dampened with astuteness that acerbically caricatures the real/imaginary worlds he belongs to. A cinephile would be elated that Woody Allen is still honing every possible film-making element of his and delivering surprise after surprise.
Let's fling back to the film. With an array of characters living in (or migrated to) the city of Rome, the film is a mosaic made out of seemingly discordant tiles, all of which come together to form a thing of beauty that remains joyful for some time (unlike John Keats' 'joy forever'). Four stories run in parallel tracks but are not necessarily interwoven. A successful American architect, another fledgling yet idealistic architect, a live-in girlfriend, her female friend played by Ellen Page (who gets some meaty dialogues to play around with). Allen stupendously etched Page's character as an intelligentsia-meets-emotionally spurious or orgasmically spurious one (tongue-in-cheek). This character with its distilled and simplified presence shines as other Allen's uncanny interpretations of nouveau riche and neo-artsy world.
Enough of revelations and no more probing into characters - Let's keep some surprises as surprises and allow them unleash on screen!! The bone of contention in the film is the beautiful city of Rome whose presence was hardly felt. When Paris and Barcelona could get a poetic testimony from Allen in his previous films, what's the problem with Rome? Here the pristine city is lost in its global camouflage. May be Allen used someone else's eyes to detail the city!! The rib-tickling elements are sharp and startling, and they come with a dose of fancy and slapstick. Ultimately, the movie boils down to an average Rom-com with Allenish touch of genius.\r
Bottom-line: In To Rome with Love, as Woody Allen is committed to the idea of paradigms he ridicules and rejoices at the same time, the movie watching experience becomes akin to having a fine wine with a wrong choice of cheese. At times your intellect takes the longest leap and at times you feel there's nothing to incite the remotest corner of your cerebral garage. Your craving for an exotic dish gets accentuated and assuaged owing to lackadaisical unfolding of cinematic glory on celluloid. In a nutshell, you just like everyone and everything about the film, but CONDITIONS APPLY!!\r