What To Rome with Love lacks in viewer-friendliness, it more than makes up for in ambition. Here Woody Allen gives us four separate stories that take place in Rome. What makes this unusual is that the stories are intercut, but not interconnected. Apart from taking place in Rome, the stories have nothing to do with each other, nor are the time frames related. That probably sounds awkward, but if you simply go with it, it’s not. In fact, I was surprised by how smoothly it cut together and how the shift from one story to the other and back again always felt right. The four stories commence when Hayley (Alison Pill, Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris) gets directions, and more, from handsome Italian Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Soon she’s engaged to him, and her parents, Jerry (Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis), are flying to Rome to meet their prospective son-in-law and his family. In another story, middle-aged architect John (Alec Baldwin) wanders off in search of where he spent his youth and finds young architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives with his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig). The third story involves a pair of newlyweds, Antonio (Allesandro Tiberian) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronadi), who’ve come to Rome on their honeymoon. The final story is a Felliniesque comic nightmare about a boring middle-class schnook (Roberto Benigni) who inexplicably becomes famous for no apparent reason and finds his life turned upside down. Most of it works and on the occasions where it doesn’t quite, it soon rights itself. Perhaps the most engaging character is Baldwin’s John, who may or may not be real — and who may or may not, for that matter, be an older version of Jack. It’s all fast on its feet with smart, funny dialogue and effortless elegance, and it’s one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
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