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REVIEW: 'To Rome with Love'

REVIEW: 'To Rome with Love'

REVIEW: 'To Rome with Love', Flicks.co.nz

3 stars

Woody Allen's Italy-set comedy. The awesome ensemble cast includes Allen, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig and Roberto Benigni. In cinemas Boxing Day.

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The extent to which you’re prepared to enjoy To Rome with Love will be determined not only by your overall Woody Allen appreciation but by your ability to enjoy some deliberately wacky comic decisions. That’s because Allen pursues a decidedly non-contemporary route here, employing absurd comedy devices that may have felt more at home in the '70s or early '80s. An amateur opera singer who can only perform on stage within an environment like that of his bathroom, for example, or Alec Baldwin as an imaginary confidante invisible to all except Jesse Eisenberg.

Jumping back and forth between four stories in what amounts to an intercut anthology format helps with this cinematic time capsule feeling, with each of the four tales ending with essentially the same running time as a long sketch. This negates the need for over-explanation, with each scenario playing out to a comfortable and self-contained resolution without Allen feeling compelled to unnecessarily pull the various plot strands together.

Unlike a typical anthology format, it’s hard to identify the best or worst of the bunch. They all possess the same pleasant silliness, which will charm or enrage depending on your viewpoint. To Rome with Love boasts a strong cast with great work from the aforementioned Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg (in the film’s closest thing to a “Woody Allen role” apart from Woody Allen’s actual role), a surprisingly not annoying Roberto Benigni, and a (deliberately) infuriating Ellen Page amongst others. I liked it – but I can see why some won’t.

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