- Released Internationally on 20/04/12
- Released in Malta by KRS on 31/10/12
Preview (first published 01/10/12 in VIDA Magazine)
Woody Allen has been making his own particular brand of film for decades, without worrying too much about what critics thought or what the box-office brought in. But his last offering, Midnight in Paris, was extremely well received, and one of his most successful films to date. It seemed to reach out beyond the usual Allen following and appeal to fans of the city, who rushed to see another cinematic postcard that captures the city’s charm and beauty. In the past, he had similar love letters to New York and, albeit less directly, London. So it’s no huge surprise that Allen is following a similar formula here, with his usual well-written drama and romance unfolding in the eternal city of Rome. As usual, he has attracted a stellar cast – Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and most interesting of all, Roberto Benigni. Plus, as a huge bonus, Allen himself is back on screen, adding his wonderful acting to the writing and directing duties. We can more or less imagine what this will be like - but that’s a good thing.
The film is bookended by two locals who serve as all-seeing storytellers – the traffic policeman at Piazza Venezia and a man whose balcony overlooks Piazza di Spagna. Between them they give us a small sample of the many stories and people that walk through the streets of the eternal city, and thereby absolve Allen of the need to make all their stories interconnect.
The narratives are predictably light and entertaining, playing out like longer sketches with better developed characters, possibly in reference to the many such Italian films of previous decades. Some of those we meet happen to walk through the main sights of the city, but sometimes the camera lingering on the famous monuments feels forced and extra. There’s a decent dollop of fantasy in a couple of the stories, which jars initially but plays out nicely, especially Baldwin as the commenting observer in the shaken love life of Jack (Jesse Eisenberg). Roberto Benigni’s story is also amusing, but only just avoids dragging the joke on for too long.
Woody Allen himself is central to possibly the better plotline, as a retired opera producer who feels he has discovered a raw, different talent during his brief holiday. Again, it’s a one-joke story, but it works. Allen’s writing shines best with the character of Monica (Ellen Page), in which he perfectly captures the intensely annoying ‘tortured artsy soul’ I’m sure many viewers will recognise. Besides the big names in the cast there are also many recognisable Italian stars, including smoky-eyed Ornella Muti, and a hilarious Antonio Albanese who is clearly enjoying himself.
In the end
If you’re new to Woody Allen, I wouldn’t start with this one, but if you’ve enjoyed his previous films you’ll probably find this fun, albeit not hugely so. Either way, if you love Rome, but have no flights booked for the foreseeable future, this could do for now.