Rome, Love, and Celebrity….and Woody Allen

Rome, Love, and Celebrity….and Woody Allen August 2, 2012

There are many sides to Woody Allen, and most of them are funny. His neurotic New York schtick is always fun to watch, and Woody is right on form in this movie. Here he plays an avant garde music impresario who has never found success—- due to his attempts to mesh opera with the theater of the absurd. Never, that is until he finds a mortician who can sing in the shower, but not much of anywhere else.

But this movie is not mainly about Woody himself, ‘To Rome with Love’ is a pretty devastating critique of our fascination with celebrity and the whole superficiality of celebrity culture. In this respect it really not much like his success from last year, ‘Midnight in Paris’, except of course it is set in a beautiful European capital, in this case Roma.

It is a surprise to me that more of the reviews of this films have not realized this is not divertimento… it is Woody Allen satire with the tongue hardly in cheek. Most interesting of all is how Allen draws analogies between the absurdities of celebrity and the absurdities of lust and romance. The public falls for ‘stars’ for irrational reasons, and individuals fall in love with other individuals for equally irrational reasons. In both case the fantasies never match the reality, and the realities never live up to the fantasies.

To see this movie as basically about love, or young love, or old love, is to miss the point. It is holding up a mirror to our ephemeral irrational fantasies and showing us that they are no more or less absurd than the character Allen plays promoting opera via absurd mechanisms. Indeed, that opera which he promotes is a parable of just such fascinations.

The actors in this film are A list—- Alec Baldwin, Woody himself, Judy Davis young stars Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page, a voluptuous Penelope Cruz (as the happy hooker), and a bevy of likable Italians. In addition the cinematography is just as wonderful as last years Paris film. Indeed, even if you liked nothing else about the film, it would be worth seeing just to see Rome in this light and in this way.

The most interest role in the film is played by Alec Baldwin who sort of serves as the voice of conscience for the character Jesse Eisenberg plays. Along the way, there is the usual Allen wit. A one juncture Allen professes to his long suffering wife, “You know you married a very bright guy, I have an IQ in the 160s” to which she tartly responds ” Yes, dear, but that number was calculated in Euros, in dollars it is much lower.”

I have loved many Woody Allen films, and I loved this one as well, critics be darned. It appears that some are just unable to recognize satire when they see it, or alas they are too fond of celebrity culture and trashy boy lusts girl stories to admit it. All I know is, for an hour and 52 minutes I was thoroughly entertained, laughed a good deal, and enjoyed the scenery. What more can one want from a summer film? While I wouldn’t rate this movie in Woody’s top five (The Purple Rose of Cairo, Annie Hall, Love and Death, Bananas, Midnight in Paris) it is better than many of his films and well worth a trip to the Cineplex.

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