Released: Friday, June 22, 2012 (limited)
To put it kindly, this latest installment from Woody Allen had a lot going on in it. So much in fact that it was clear he didn’t know what to do with it all. Though I can’t say that anything about the film was insufferable or even really bad, its just….well, maybe its that which was wrong with the whole affair — when it was over, so what? Everything pretty much worked out perfectly, including one of the the movie’s more compelling female characters — Monica (Ellen Page) — being written off all-too-conveniently. In fact her entire character was too perfect to be true, as a supposed bisexual, “pseudo-intellectual,” temporary-out-of-work actress from the States. She was flirty besides.
This was a romantic film with about as many different plots occurring simultaneously as there were languages being spoken by a plethora of talented actors — some recognized and some not (the actors, that is.) We are whisked into the urbane, yet wonky storyline via an Italian policeman directing heavy traffic. He provides the cue which introduces us to many of the characters, including famous American architect John (Alec Baldwin), his wife Phyllis (Judy Davis), and a young student named Jack (Jesse Eisenberg).
If there’s one thing Allen did really really well on this project, it was placing emphasis on the street corner. Jack comes across the architect literally at the corner of a quaint little avenue, a run-in that causes John to follow Jack back to the place where he had spent some time as a youth. Baldwin’s role in this movie is an interesting one, as he functions more narratively than as a plot character. But, ultimately, he shadows Eisenberg around the set, advising him here and instructing him there, and “oh I wouldn’t do that if I were you” in almost every scene he is invited into. It gets a bit old.
While there were a few moments that got on my nerves the movie’s intent was good; it had heart and lots of it. Penelope Cruz was a nice touch, also.
The random and rapid rise to celebrity-status of Leopold Pisanello was absolutely gold, despite a lack of an explanation as to how it happened. Thank Roberto Benigni for that as well; he comically sold us the notion that the most important meal of the day can be the most important story of your life! Between that and getting interviewed while shaving in his own bathroom, Leopold’s situation anchored the movie deeper into the comedy side of rom-com, and the fact that a stray bride-to-be (Alessandra Mastronardi) roamed the streets in search of a beauty salon, only to bump into a famous Italian actor and subsequently get held at gunpoint and make love to her assailant thereafter revealed the movie had no intentions of really getting too serious at any point. Like most of the so-called relationships throughout.
So when I say everything in this film ends perfecto, I mean so. Its a little too Cinderella-y for my tastes, and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg in a Woody Allen film was simply too soon for Allen and too American for Roma. There’s oodles of laughs in here, a good number from 76-year-old Allen, but there’s no consequences.
I say, who cares? If he continues at the rate he’s going currently, there’ll be another Allen test piece next year, and its already July.
Recommendation: Lesser Woody Allen, there is no doubt. This isn’t top-tier stuff by any means, but it’s just entertaining enough.
Running Time: 102 mins.
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