I last went to Rome when I was 17. And I definitely think it’s time for another visit. Alas, this year is supposed to be focused on UK travel and I need to stick to the promise I made to myself. So I’ve been keeping my Roman thoughts satisfied with watching Roman films. This of course includes the next film on my Woody Allen agenda, To Rome With Love.
Recently, I watched Bicycle Thieves (1948) for the first time. And then watched Angels and Demons (2009). Purely for the extensive locations of Rome and the Vatican of course… Okay, okay, I actually like the film. Out of the three, To Rome With Love builds a more idyllic and romantic portrait of Rome with the usual tourist haunts, the amazing food, the fine wine…
But that’s about it.
To Rome With Love
I’ll say it now, To Rome With Love is not a good film. Do not confuse feeling nostalgic or or wistful towards the subject matter of this film, or even the fact you enjoyed it, as the pillars of a good film.
The storyline follows different storylines (4 to be exact) of people living/visiting Rome that scarcely cross over. In fact, they barely have any similar themes. Other than the fact the characters ‘get swept up in the fantasy of Rome.’ Like a dream they eventually will have to wake up from. Two of them are in Italian and I’m not even going to go into them. They seem like they were squished in-between the other scenes to give the illusion the film is being more authentic to everyday life in Rome. They don’t. And you don’t need them.
An American in Rome
Two groups of American people make up the other storylines. In the first, Hayley (Alison Pill), an American girl happens upon an attractive Italian man who often works in New York (of course he bloody does) when she asks him for directions. Ah, the classic Hollywood ‘meet cute.’ Fast forward a few months and they are getting married. So of course, her parents come over to meet the in-laws. One is a questionable opera producer, another is an opera singing mortician… Personality clash ensues, and that’s about it.
In the other storyline, two young and in love students Sally & Jack (Greta Gerwig and Jesse Eisenberg, and no they are nothing like the characters made famous in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)) are living in Rome for the year. When Sally’s friend Monica comes to stay, she begins an affair with Jack. All the while Jack has John (Alec Baldwin) as some kind of metaphysical conscience whose good advice he ignores literally every time.
It’s not all bad…
The corny, eye-rolling dialogue (reminiscent of the fluff we’re served in Irrational Man (2015)) makes me want to vom. As does the fact I could probably have shut off the film halfway through and predicted the ending(s) quite accurately.
But… Despite my obvious problems with this film, I’ve watched it about 4 times now. And, along with Angels and Demons (2009), there’s a reason I keep coming back. The cinematography, with it’s shallow focus backgrounds and and saturation, is dreamy. The music is classic Italian, yet not cheesy, and the film really does manage to visit huge tourist attractions which is pretty impressive. If after watching you don’t want to immediately shout ‘Bonjourno!’ to Rome then I don’t know what film you’ve been watching.
Have you seen To Rome with Love? What did you think of it?