Saturday, May 25, 2024

Review: Penelope Cruz, Robert Benigni Make Woody Allen’s “Rome” Movie


After “Midnight in Paris,” you’re not getting–we’re not getting –a sequel, so forget it. Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love” opens June 22nd after having already been a hit in Italy. It stars Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, and Roberto Benigni, as well as Woody himself and Judy Davis. Plus there are a lot of Italian actors. Much of the movie is in Italian with subtitles.

You won’t mind. “To Rome with Love” is like a throw back to old fashioned omnibus movies that tell a lot of interlocking stories with many, many characters. To his credit, Woody keeps them very distinct. Even the Italian actors–unknown to us–are so specific that you don’t miss a thing.

Mainly, though, “To Rome with Love” –besides being funny–is an interesting take on Woody’s thoughts about fame. Each member of the cast is looking, they think, to elevate themselves from the humdrum. It’s either through the heightened sense of impractical love, or — in Benigni’s case–of a regular Roman who suddenly cannot walk the streets because he’s so famous.

Penelope Cruz is a stand out, of course, as a professional call girl. Hot, sexy? Yes. But also a practical business woman with a large following among Rome’s corporate leaders. Her entire performance is spoken in Italian, which makes her even hotter.

But even with attractive young people, “To Rome with Love” is pointed at just the same audience as “Midnight in Paris.” Meaning: upscale, educated, a little older. Sony Pictures Classics would do well to remember that in the marketing. This is the antidote to a summer full of cartoon action films. More on “To Rome” next week when it’s about to open.

PS What about Woody’s character? He’s the clueless director of avant garde operas, and come to Rome to stage one with a very unusual premise: the main character performs his whole part in a stall shower while a conventional opera surrounds him. It is very funny.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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