Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love is billed as a “kaleidoscopic comedy movie,” but whether the multiple story lines morph into each other for a pleasurable sensory effect is debatable. Allen, continuing a late-career directorial travelogue that includes four films shot in London and two in continental Europe, follows up the magical realism of last year’s Midnight In Paris with something pretty unreal but not very magical. Inconsistencies in time and space elements, and a plot that echoes an episode of The Flintstones, join generally underdeveloped attempts at suspending disbelief to mar Allen’s attempt to represent the city of Fellini.
The most odd is Alec Baldwin as John, an architect returning to the place that inspired him at the dawn of his career. He bonds with youthful architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), himself in Rome for inspiration, who considers John an influence. John proceeds to shadow every move by Jack and his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), as Jack falls under the spell of Sally’s aspiring actress best friend, Monica (Ellen Page). Either that or he is a figment of Jack’s imagination, or a ghost visiting Rome, or a phantasm no one but Jack acknowledges except when Monica suddenly speaks to him.
During that time, an everyman (Roberto Benigni) is suddenly treated like a celebrity, a couple (Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi) are separated just before their wedding and find themselves in sexually compromising positions (enter Penélope Cruz), and a retired opera director (Allen) is compelled to make a singing star of his future son-in-law’s mortician father (Fabio Armiliato). Since his protégé, like Barney Rubble, can only sing in the shower, he gets a very Fred Flintstone-like idea to produce a damp version of Pagliacci in the same amount of time the aforementioned couple are separate. Unfortunately, the dots don’t connect in any of the stories, and the result is tantamount to sitting through an undercooked four-course dinner. MATT KELEMEN