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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Movie Review: To Rome With Love.

 "a treasure of the cinema"

-Roger Ebert's description of Woody Allen

I remember a time when Woody Allen wrote, directed and starred in the best and funniest movies there was to be made. Legendary movies like Annie Hall, Play It Again Sam, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex, Bananas, Radio Days, and Broadway Danny Rose, just to name a few. He was once brilliant. Those days are long gone.

Allen has made a lot of great (and I mean great) movies over the years that I have enjoyed immensely. To Rome With Love (2012) wasn't one of them. I don't say this lightly, but Woody, you owe me 24 bucks for the piece of crap movie you made. It was awful from start to finish and all the way in between.

To Rome With Love gets 1 out of 5 stars from me. A Woody Allen movie that rates that horribly is not a statement I ever thought I would make. It is hard to believe, but in some ways it is even generous. I was astounded at how bad this was in so many ways.

 While I understand that everybody makes a bad movie every now and then, in this case, I am pretty sure that Woody Allen made exactly the movie he wanted to make. However,  it just is plain lousy and completely self indulgent. That is obviously not meant to be taken in a good way.
It was by far the worst movie I have seen this year. To even write that about a Woody Allen movie is shocking to me. It was so bad I had thoughts of walking out of the movie about 20 minutes in. It was that bad.

 In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Allen in fourth place on a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. It feels kind of weird and uncomfortable in this blog to knock Woody Allen. He is legendary and one of the most talented and funniest comics and filmmakers of my lifetime.

 Lately, I have been wondering why Woody doesn't act anymore. He used to be so good and some of his recent movies  (Midnight In Paris, 2011) were very well written and acted, so he apparently still did have the talent. Now, I can see why he doesn't act anymore. If he is just going to do his 1960s neurotic character trying to do his stand up, he shouldn't bother. I have seen it. It was funny then, it is not funny now. Instead of coming off  as funny--as it did when he was a young to middle aged man--it just comes off now as an annoying, whining, complaining old man. And he should not be writing whole scenes just so you can justify those jokes. They don't work either way.  It was like watching a washed up stand up comic die on stage. And when I say die, I mean a slow painful death.

 Sadly, as an actor,  time has not been kind to Woody Allen. He just doesn't have that certain something he once did, so he falls back into some very comfortable (yet tiresome for the viewer) territory. You can see the jokes and punchlines coming a mile away, and again, that isn't a good thing.

The people next to me were laughing hysterically. I can't imagine why. I suppose they just will laugh at anything he now does, and sadly, Allen is relying on that to get by as he just barely hangs on when he should have given it up ages ago. He had a long, successful, ground breaking and important career.  He is now tainting that with the work he continues to do. It is clearly time to hang it up,  before it gets any worse and he becomes an embarrassment like Marlon Brando did at the end.

 Allen gets a lot of leeway with a lot of people because of what he has created in the past. But that goodwill is wearing very thin. He simply doesn't have it, or care to try hard enough anymore.

 There are some very fine actors in this movie, and for the most part they are asked to do nothing and are wasted.

Alec Baldwin,  just sails along and does nothing, because he was given nothing to do. Any number of very mediocre actors could have played this part, one which was a direct ripoff of the character in Play It Again, Sam. 

Shame that Woody has to resort to ripping off his own great work to prolong a career that was over quite a while ago. Alec Baldwin is playing the character we have seen in Play It Again Sam. that worked then, but doesn't work now. It is a weak attempt to use what worked once in the right context not work here in the completely wrong context.

 Jesse Eisenberg was fantastic in The Social Network. He is a promising actor. But even  he couldn't save this mediocre and predictable part and character. And maybe he might want to do something with that mop on his head. It played as Zuckerberg, but it just looks stupid otherwise. Lets hope he doesn't become the Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg of his generation and go straight downhill with part after part.

Yes, Penelope Cruz looks very hot in a dress. But she can also act. Too bad Woody Allen didn't make her bother to do that in this movie.

  Penelope Cruz. Well, she is mega hot, as always, and she does her best, but as with Alec Baldwin, she had nothing to do. All three of them were wasted in this movie.

 The best scenes and dialogue and possibly acting came from the Italian subtitled parts,  which were very long and hard to watch. Quite frankly, I don't expect to have to read subtitles for a good portion of a Woody Allen movie. If I had known that was part of it, I would have skipped the movie. Another horrible judgement call by Allen, who is just indulging himself here.

 There are two plots in the Italian subtitle portion of the film. One, the backhanded stab at being famous for famous sake was terrible. He could probably make one great whole movie about that, but instead he just pieces together a bunch of lame and poorly written scenes about it that don't play at all. And that grows very tired very quickly. Second, the story of a young couple who are moving to Rome to start a new life and get in all sorts of trouble when things start to go wrong. This had the potential to work, but Allen completely jumps the shark when he tries to piece together a whole bunch of nonsensical plot devices into one long story that just drags and makes you say "WTF!"
The worst of that is the last part. The young wife, who has now been lured to the room of a famous actor she has just met and decides  to sleep with because she doesn't want to have any regrets (already very far fetched) is just about to do that when a burglar has somehow entered their hotel room, taken her by gun point and then attempts to rob them. When the actors wife, who has been spying on him with a private eye and hotel security just enters his room, the robber and the young wife make like they are lovers in a bed to get the actor out of trouble (how generous of the robber). Seeing as this works, the criminal and the young wife just decide to have sex because "she has never had sex with a criminal either."

Oh, I get it. She just decides to have sex with a criminal who is holding her at gun point? Yeah, I surely believed that. Not!
I will say if anything came out of this movie, it was Allesandra Mastronardi. She is very captivating on screen and I will look for more from her. She has a special quality that comes across in every scene.

 The scatter sketch approach he used here is something Allen has tried before.
In Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, it worked. It worked there. It didn't work here.

 Allen likes to make movies that pay tribute and visit the past (like in Radio Days and Broadway Danny Rose). Maybe he should actually watch his old movies so he can do the same. See how he did it when he was actually good at making films and acting. Those days appear far gone.

How bad was this movie? I would rather see Magic Mike in a theater full of horny, sex starved and crazed women than see this movie. It was horrible.
Woody Allen, if that is all you have left, you should just retire and let others who can still do it do it.

My advice to you is to go spend some time and watch some of his old movies and skip this one. Even if you have seen some of them, they offer more value as repeats than To Rome With Love offers as a new production. It is nothing new, just a bad repeat of his previous great work. 
If this movie did anything for me, it has gotten me to revisit some of his great  old work. It doesn't make up for the 24 bucks down the drain, but at least I will get some enjoyment out of this experience.

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