Movie Review: “To Rome With Love” – Return To Sender

Written by Emily McWilliams August 26, 2012

Following “Match Point”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, and “Midnight in Paris”, Woody Allen continues his fascination with Europe in his latest feature, “To Rome With Love”.  The film consists of several storylines that operate independently from one another during the course of the plot, but are united in sharing the same setting – the beautiful city of Rome – and similar themes of love, regret, and identity.  “To Rome With Love” features a large ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and Woody Allen himself.  Despite this strong cast and Allen’s recent Oscar winning success with “Midnight in Paris”, the ambitious plot structure weakens “To Rome With Love”.  This film will come as a disappointment to hardcore Allen fans as it lacks his trademark wit.

So Many Stories, So Little Time

In telling the stories that compose “To Rome With Love”, Woody Allen incorporates a variety of narrative techniques that explore the possibilities of filmmaking.  Characters address the audience, reason with their past and future selves, and pause conversations for moments of internal enlightenment.  This, combined with the five main storylines, make this film’s structure similar to a Shakespearian comedy.  The film is confusing and absurd most of the time, but genuine moments of emotion do manage to shine through.  Allen does somehow effectively combine these plots into a more or less cohesive film, but this storytelling structure is overwhelming.  None of the storylines felt like they were given enough time to fully expand their characters and themes, and the constant interruption as the stories switched from one to another didn’t seem like an effective structure.

Not On Par With Allen’s Other Films

Technically speaking, this isn’t a terrible movie.  The cinematography captured and highlighted the beauty of Rome. The cast’s performances were good, with Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz standing out above the others.  Even the script wasn’t that bad, but compared to Allen’s other films it lacked the mystery of “Match Point”, the sexiness of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, and the wonder of “Midnight in Paris”.  “To Rome with Love” had a couple one-line zingers but not the usual sharpness that one expects with an Allen film.  For a filmmaker who is known for being innovative and original, this film was just average.

For Die-Hard Allen Fans Only

“To Rome With Love” is a disappointingly underwhelming film to come from one of the great American auteurs.   If you’re a fan of Woody Allen, then I would say to give this movie a try as well, because it does follow similar conventions to his other films and has some funny moments.  Just don’t expect this film to be on the same level as some of his past movies.  This is definitely not the worst movie you’ll see this year, but not one of the best either.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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