Woody Allen has been dispatching cinematic postcards from European cities for much of the past decade and following missives from London, Barcelona and Paris, he’s now alighted in the Italian capital for To Rome with Love.
It’s another multi-stranded comedy following the romantic adventures, marital mishaps and domestic follies of a mix of visitors and locals. Allen dips in and out of the separate storylines but never attempts to tie them together or give them any kind of thematic unity.
In one story, Alec Baldwin’s successful architect John vicariously relives his youthful student days in Rome as he observes Jesse Eisenberg’s budding young architect caught between his dependable girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and her seductive but flaky best friend (Ellen Page).
In another, retired music producer Jerry (played by Allen himself) visits the city with his psychiatrist wife (Judy Davis) to meet their daughter’s fiancé and discovers that his future son-in-law’s undertaker father Giancarlo has a remarkable singing voice. But how can he take advantage of his find – and revive his former opera-directing career – when Giancarlo (played by real-life tenor Fabio Armiliato) can only sing in the shower?
Elsewhere, in a satire on instant celebrity, Roberto Benigni’s dull family man wakes up one morning to find himself inexplicably famous, courted for his opinions by reporters, pestered by paparazzi and lauded on TV. And in the final strand, provincial newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) enjoy separate erotic encounters in the Eternal City – he with call girl Penelope Cruz and she with an Italian movie star (Antonio Albanese).
All the episodes are patchy, some outstay their welcome (notably Benigni’s) and even the best (Eisenberg’s) fall short of the comic alchemy achieved by Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris, but when the chemistry of script and cast comes off then the film is a delight – and the funniest bits made me laugh louder and longer than any other film this year.
On general release from Friday 14th September.