I’d not long seen Robert Weide’s masterful Woody Allen documentary when I saw this, it’s a wonderful film and I would urge anyone tempted to see To Rome With Love to divert course accordingly. Weide’s film reminds you what a consummate film maker and comedian Allen is, and takes you on a journey through his best work. He does touch on the tailing off of Allen’s talents in recent years, but then we had the sublime Midnight in Paris which left a bit of hope that he might after all have something left in the pot. He made Owen ‘Penis Nose’ Wilson likeable for goodness’ sake. So there’s always a bit of hope when a new one comes along that it might be a hit rather than the all too frequent misses. Not this time, sadly.
The drive to be constantly working seems to have drained much of Woody Allen’s ability to see beyond cliché. And To Rome is full of them. It’s the sort of portmanteau film where you expect Walter Matthau to pop up guffawing at some point and wink knowingly at the camera. Allen tells us four unconnected stories – one a comment on the vacuity of modern fame (no shit sherlock), one a joke about singing in the shower that would only have been mildly funny as a comedy sketch, another a kind of ‘and then my trousers fell off’ story about newlyweds and the fourth the tale of an unfaithful boyfriend which has the benefit of Alec Baldwin, but wastes this in turning him into some sort of irritating speaking conscience. Penelope Cruz us similarly wasted in the age-old tart with a heart role. And indie darling Greta Gerwig is most wasted of all in a role where she is required to do nothing except look a bit peeved.
It’s not the worst thing ever, and it filled a couple of hours on a wet afternoon. In fact the couple sitting behind me laughed loud and long throughout, which wasn’t irritating at all. But it’s so far from Woody at his best that you have to wonder whether Midnight was a fluke.