October 3, 2012 -- This is a major setback after the brilliance of his previous film, “Midnight in Paris,” but Woody Allen has put just enough good comedy skits in this film to get a passing grade for this effort.
Continuing his romantic comedy tour of Europe, this love letter to the City of Rome is a series of comedy sketches that don't quite fit together. Two of these sketches are surrealistic. One involves a man, John (played by Alec Baldwin of “It's Complicated”) who seems to know the future and who appears to be everywhere all the time to offer comments, advice and observations to a young man, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg of “The Social Network”) who could be a younger version of John himself. The other is a man, Leopoldo (Roberto Begnini of “Life is Beautiful”) who becomes instantly famous for no reason.
John is the best character in the film. He seems to be sort of a ghost from the future of young architect, Jack. John knows all the mistakes that Jack is about to make. He warns Jack not to get involved with pretty young actress, Monica (Ellen Page of “Juno”), but, naturally, Jack can't help himself, and he falls for her anyway. It seems as though John has made all these same mistakes before. He and Jack could even be the same person.
Leopoldo is an ordinary man with an ordinary job who suddenly becomes famous for no reason at all. His life is suddenly transformed. He gets in to all the best restaurants. Women find him attractive. The press is fascinated by all his opinions and by everything he does. He gets better treatment from his boss and a better office. However, he gets tired of the swarm of reporters and cameras that follow his every move. He cannot go anywhere without attracting a crowd.
Another sketch is almost surrealistic. Woody Allen himself (he also wrote and directed this film) plays Jerry, a retired theatrical agent who sees his chance to get back in the game when he discovers Giancarlo, a great singer (played by real opera star Fabio Armiliato). The trouble is, Giancarlo can only sing his best while in the shower. Jerry solves the problem by putting Giancarlo in an opera complete with a portable shower which is wheeled out onto the stage with the rest of the actors. This makes for some funny comedy, but it is overdone.
Yet another near-surrealistic sketch involves a young woman, Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), who gets lost trying to find a hairdresser in Rome and ends up almost having an affair with a movie star before ending up in bed with an armed robber. Meanwhile, her husband, Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) has his own romp with a prostitute, Anna (Penélope Cruz of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) who was arranged to meet him as a joke by his friends. He persuades Anna to pretend to be his wife for a delicate social occasion when he can't find his wife.
The sketch involving Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page suffers from being miscast. Eisenberg seems to lack the confidence to be a successful architect and Page appears to be too slight not coy enough to be the seductive vamp she is supposed to be. This role calls for a Penélope Cruz type. There doesn't seem to be much chemistry between these two.
These sketches don't really add up to a whole movie, but there are enough laughs here and there to keep the film afloat. The most uncomfortable bit is the opera scene with the portable shower on stage. It's funny, but it goes on too long. We get the point already. Move on. Roberto Begnini's role requires him to hide his best acting abilities until an all-too brief scene near the end of the movie, when we finally see his wild and crazy side.
This is a hit and miss kind of movie and Woody Allen is a hit and miss kind of filmmaker. This one is a miss, although it does have its moments. This film rates a C.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.