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To Rome with Love Blu-ray Review

To Rome with Love (2012) movie poster To Rome with Love

US Theatrical Release: June 22, 2012 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen (Jerry), Alec Baldwin (John Foy), Roberto Benigni (Leopoldo Pisanello), Penélope Cruz (Anna/Milly), Judy Davis (Phyllis), Jesse Eisenberg (Jack), Greta Gerwig (Sally), Ellen Page (Monica), Antonio Albanese (Luca Salta), Fabio Armiliato (Giancarlo), Alessandra Mastronardi (Milly), Ornella Muti (Pia Fusari), Flavio Parenti (Michelangelo), Alison Pill (Hayley), Riccardo Scamarcio (Hotel Robber), Alessandro Tiberi (Antonio), Pierluigi Marchionne (Traffic Policeman), Carol Alt (Carol), Roberto Della Casa (Uncle Paolo), Ariella Reggio (Aunt Rita), Gustavo Frigerio (Uncle Sal), Simona Caparrini (Aunt Giovanna)

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It seems unlikely that Woody Allen will ever again surpass the critical and commercial success of his Oscar-winning 2011 comic fantasy Midnight in Paris. But if you thought that film's glowing reception would get him to take a break or sign off on a high note, then you don't know Woody Allen. Allen, who turned 77 in December, has been making films for nearly fifty years and has written and directed at least one feature every year since 1974. His clockwork shows no sign of shutting down anytime soon; this very week, Sony Pictures Classics acquired the newly-titled Blue Jasmine as Allen's 2013 film.

Allen's 2012 movie continued to see him dabbling in ensemble romantic comedies outside the United States. Having memorably mined England, France, and Spain in recent years, Allen now takes to Italy in To Rome with Love, which also finds the writer-director stepping back in front of the camera for his first acting role for himself since 2006's Scoop.

Aspiring young architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) receives advice from a possibly imaginary architect (Alec Baldwin) who sees a lot of his younger self in him. Woody Allen steps back in front of the camera to play a retired New York record manager who, to the annoyance of his wife (Judy Davis), insists he's heard a great new voice.

The film bounces us between four different worlds with nothing but the city of Rome linking them.
The story claiming the most cover real estate involves Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), an aspiring young architect tempted to cheat on his live-in girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) with Monica (Ellen Page), her visiting best friend, a pseudo-intellectual out-of-work actress. Providing snarky running commentary on Jack and Monica's encounters is the successful architect John Foy (Alec Baldwin), who is returning to the place where he briefly lived as a college student thirty years ago. It's never entirely clear whether John is actually supposed to be Jack grown-up (if so, the physical resemblance is non-existent) or some kind of imaginary sage (his comments receive little response from anyone but Jack). What is clear is that he adds a layer of obnoxiousness to what is the film's most obnoxious arc.

Allen comes into the picture as Jerry, the father of Hayley (Alison Pill), a young American who has fallen for a handsome Italian do-gooder named Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Recently retired from his position in a New York record label's classical music division, Jerry visits Italy reluctantly and, to the annoyance of his wife (Judy Davis), with all sorts of classic Woody Allen neuroses. After hearing Michelangelo's mortician father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower, Jerry becomes desperate to sign and manage his daughter's future father-in-law. When Giancarlo proves to be less impressive out of the shower, Jerry comes up with a ridiculous solution.

Another story involves Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi), a timid man visiting from the country and nervous to introduce his new bride (Alessandra Mastronardi) to his upper-class parents. That situation is rendered a great deal more awkward when he decides to have Anna (Penélope Cruz), a high-class prostitute mistakenly showing up at his hotel room raring to go, pose as his wife. While that's going on, the real Milly is rubbing shoulders with (fictitious) Italian film actors she dearly admires.

Finally, the most whimsical, creative, and agreeable storyline involves Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), an average middle-class husband, father, and businessman who suddenly finds himself a celebrity, hounded by paparazzi and interviewed by a captive press fascinated with the most mundane detail of his day. Movie premieres and beautiful women are among the perks to the inexplicable new fame, but soon Leopoldo comes to miss the privacy he took for granted.

Prostitute Anna (Penélope Cruz) poses as the wife of a timid newlywed (Alessandro Tiberi). Ordinary middle-class man Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni) suddenly finds himself a celebrity worthy of paparazzi scrutiny.

So, Woody Allen has followed up what I consider his best movie to date (a claim, I'm aware, his more devout admirers would scoff at) with his worst in quite some time. To Rome with Love falls short not only of the highs of Midnight in Paris but of Allen's consistently adequate typical output.

As if it wasn't already obvious, the title (which replaced the working one of Nero Fiddled) announces this film as a love letter to Italy's capital, much like Allen's previous film was to France's capital. Rome deserves better than this hodgepodge of uninspired jokes about currency, celebrities (invented and real), political differences, culture clash, asking for directions, and, of course, sex. It's as if Allen hurriedly wrote down ideas on some napkins, putting a desire to extend his streak of annual output above the need to flesh these bits into something cohesive and remotely enjoyable.
On a movie like this, Allen's own history of productivity seems to come before any audience satisfaction. As he surely knows, there is a fan base that sees everything he makes and gets excited at the sight of alphabetical white Windsor credits on a black screen.

As evidenced by the lowly domestic box office numbers put up by a number of Allen's 21st century films, that core audience is small and not always satisfied. Midnight in Paris, on the other hand, had genuine wide-reaching appeal that added up to a $151 million worldwide gross, easily the best in the director's career (especially when not adjusting for inflation). To Rome with Love seems to have gotten a bump from that film's warm reception, which no doubt saw Allen reconnecting with a number of past viewers who had moved away from his distinct brand of comedy. To Rome's $16.7 M North American haul made it Allen's fourth biggest hit of the past ten years and at least contributed to the prospect of profitability that's never certain on the director's modern output. (Unsurprisingly, the film also did boffo business in Italy.)

Unloved by critics and unrecognized by all but one American organization (a Favorite Actress - Comedy/Musical nomination for Cruz from the American Latino Media Arts Awards), To Rome with Love hits DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

To Rome with Love Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Hindi, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Featurette Subtitled in English
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Sony treats To Rome with Love to a clean, sharp, bright and colorful 1.78:1 Blu-ray transfer. Woody Allen has also apparently come to accept the full multi-channel sound experience, as the film is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, not that it commands notice on that front. Much of the film's dialogue is in Italian and smoothly translated by player-generated subtitles. Interestingly, Italian subtitles are not offered, even though it's clear that the English subs don't translate everything verbatim.

A photograph shows Woody Allen directing Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page is the featurette "Con Amore: A Passion for Rome." Alison Pill gets directions from Flavio Parenti in the menu's video postcard collage.


In the tradition of Woody Allen movies, To Rome with Love is joined by few bonus features. First up comes the making-of featurette "Con Amore: A Passion for Rome" (9:05),
which feels like the latest concession to commercial realities from Allen, whose dislike of supplements is evident. Alec Baldwin and producer Letty Aronson (the director's sister) discuss working with Allen, the film's homage to Italian cinema, and shooting in one of the world's biggest tourist cities with a local crew. Their comments are complemented by behind-the-scenes photos and red carpet footage from the film's LA Film Festival premiere.

To Rome with Love's original theatrical trailer (2:00) is also included.

The disc opens with a trailer for Midnight in Paris, which is also the only thing that plays from the "Previews" listing. Like other Sony BDs, this one supports bookmarks and flawlessly resumes playback wherever you left off.

The menu plays clips on a rotation of postcards, while the listings and cursors resemble postmarks.

Bad news, UltraViolet fans: the only insert inside the extensively-illustrated keepcase advertises a Rome vacation sweepstakes.

John (Alec Baldwin) continues to share his surreal wisdom with Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) as they take a picturesque drive around Rome.


To Rome with Love is one of Woody Allen's lesser efforts. Anyone working as frequently as him seems entitled to have one of those once in a while. This international comedy is short on laughs, logic, and consistency. Unless you make a point to see every one of Allen's films, this is one you can skip.

Sony's Blu-ray offers a delightful feature presentation and a 9-minute making-of featurette that's a pretty huge inclusion for a Woody Allen film. Fans of the film and the director's faithful following can buy without hesitation.

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Related Reviews:
Woody Allen: Midnight in ParisYou Will Meet a Tall Dark StrangerWhatever WorksNew York StoriesAnnie Hall
Penelope Cruz: NinePirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides | Greta Gerwig: GreenbergArthurNo Strings Attached
Jesse Eisenberg: 30 Minutes or LessAdventurelandZombielandSolitary Man | Ellen Page: JunoSmart PeopleWhip It
Roberto Benigni: Down by Law | Alec Baldwin: Rock of Ages | Alison Pill: Dan in Real Life
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Reviewed January 11, 2013.

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