5 disconnected stories set in Rome run parallel with adventure on the agenda and amusingly unexpected situations. However, the excitement drops quickly even before they begin to entertain. Ultimately, it’s just a pedestrian creation from Allen.
The plot: Rome houses a plethora of personalities with tourists and ordinary people. It’s the extraordinary encounters of the ordinary folk that gives it a slice-of-life kind of humour and surrealism.
Newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) arrive in this charismatic city to test their luck, to make it big and have expensive villas of their own. Within no time the city tests them as they get separated and infidelity creeps in with hooker Anna (Penelope Cruz) seducing Antonio and making her job look dignified while she’s at it.
It’s infidelity again elsewhere in the same city where young architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives with his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), gets tempted by the verbal moves of Monica (Ellen Page), Sally’s best friend. Sally is the sensible choice to make and Monica, as her name suggests, sounds desirous yet dangerous, but Jack willingly jumps in.
John (Alec Baldwin) has come to Rome to reminisce about the good ol’ days he spent there as a young man. His character is a little incomplete and has an open end to it.
There’s also common man Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who has a frenzied press turning the spotlight on him one fine day for no good reason and dropping him even before he gets used to the unexpected fame.
Mock meanwhile at a cross-cultural couple, depicted by Woody as a Communist vs Capitalist scenario, where two widely dissimilar families have to bear with each other.
The good: The humour which is farcical with its whimsical characters, manages to stay afloat. It is served in diverse forms on a platter, tongue-in-cheek romantic encounters juxtaposed with the mania of the media and film stars in Rome. There is realism subtly intertwined with wacky characters which bring out the most obvious peculiarities of Rome. The writing, by the director himself, is amusing because of its honesty and lifelike flavour but falls flat because it is done in such a hurried manner. Italy’s nuances are depicted well and worth the attention.
The performances take it a notch higher with Roberto Benigni, Jessie, Alec and Penelope packing a wallop even in their little stints. Rome is an important character and it is aesthetic and good looking right from the very first frame.
The bad: Too many characters spoil the plot, as do too many parallel stories, especially when most of them are half-baked, like John’s character. The humour too repeats itself, like the crazy press and Roberto Benigni’s obsession, which adds up to straight boredom.
Too much of a disconnect between the stories makes your interest wane.
Overall: Missing is a wholesome feel which begs the question: is this really a ‘Woody Allen’ film?
– Pooja Thakkar