To Rome with Love movie review: absurd fantasy fulfillment

Everyone has a secret fantasy. Some are simple and others are, well, complicated. Set in the eternal city of Rome, four comedic vignettes explore the fantasies of some average people, some American and some Italian. Woody himself returns to acting as a newly retired opera director yearning to leave his mark on the world, even if it requires convincing a mortician to sing in the shower.

To Rome With Love Penelope Cruz

Alec Baldwin plays John, a successful American architect who’s most famous for building shopping malls. He magically runs into young Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who’s his younger, less good-looking doppelganger. They pal around with Jack’s girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her actress best-friend Monica (Ellen Page), who has this way with men (and women). When Jack feels sparks for Monica, older John coaches him through the romantic turmoil, as if reliving his own youth.

Woody Allen and Judy Davis fly to Rome to meet their daughter Hayley’s (Alison Pill) new Italian boyfriend Michelangelo (hottie Flavio Parenti). Thinking the young Italian is some sort of Communist, Woody isn’t all too impressed by Michelangelo. But when Woody hears his undertaker father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) singing opera in the shower, something clicks. Woody believes he can make a star out of Giancarlo and add a new chapter in his less than spectacular music career.

When Giancarlo does a test song in a music studio, he chokes. For some reason, he can’t relax and replicate the perfect sounds he makes while singing in the shower. So, in this somewhat absurdist story, Woody gets him a mobile shower and his singing career takes off.

To Rome with Love Alec Baldwin

Roberto Benigni plays Leopoldo, just a normal, boring family man. One morning however, he wakes up to find the paparazzi stalking him. Suddenly, every move Leopoldo makes is reported in newspapers, magazines and on TV. Famous actresses throw themselves at him. He mysteriously becomes the most interesting guy in the world — for a while.

Newly married Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) gets his mind blown when a gorgeous prostitute named Anna (Penelope Cruz), shows up at his hotel door. A case of mistaken identity, Anna acts as his wife for the day and gives him a professional sex education.

To Rome with Love Ellen Page

Watching this film made me desperate to visit Rome, a city where all romantic fantasies seem possible. Woody plays his best neurotic self, spouting some great one-liners like, “In the aquatic world, I’ve been likened to a spineless jellyfish.” Woody’s view on celebrity is clearly expressed in the Leopoldo character’s journey. Fame is a nuisance until it’s gone, then it means everything.

Bottom line: Not my favorite Woody Allen movie, To Rome with Love has some delightfully absurd moments and gorgeous Italian actors. Warning:  it will make you crave pasta and red wine!

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics