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Movie Review: 'To Rome With Love'

Woody Allen is at his funniest as triumphant European tour continues

Director: Woody Allen
Rating R. Running Time: 102 minutes
Stars: Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis

Español | Woody Allen's new comedy may be as close as we're ever going to get to reliving his flat-out funny 1970s era, and we should celebrate it as such. In fact, the last 15 minutes of To Rome With Love approach levels of absurdist Allenesque hilarity we haven't seen since Sleeper, in 1973.

See also: Johnny Depp as Rango.

Left to Right: Alessandro Tiberi as Antonio, Roberto Della Casa as Uncle Paolo and Penélope Cruz as Anna

Alessandro Tiberi, Roberto Della Casa and Penélope Cruz in "To Rome With Love." — Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

In To Rome With Love we get four Woody Allen movies for the price of one: four stories told simultaneously.

One chapter involves a young American architect (Jesse Eisenberg) whose live-in girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) invites a flighty, seductive friend (Juno's Ellen Page) to stay with them. Of course, the setup is fraught with tension, and the hapless guy finds himself torn between the safe girl he loves and the dangerous one who keeps coming on to him. He gets lots of cautionary advice (ignoring most of it) from Alec Baldwin, who appears as a surreal, ever-present confidante — an echo of Allen's long-ago visits from Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam.

We also meet a pair of newlyweds from the country (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) arriving in Rome for the first time. He's there to meet some rich relatives who will in turn introduce him to a businessman who could hire him for a big job. But through a mixup, everyone mistakes a high-class prostitute (Penelope Cruz) for his wife, and he has no choice but to let them go on thinking that.

Elsewhere in Rome, a middle-class clerk (Roberto Benigni) walks out his front door one day to find a swarm of TV cameras and microphones aiming at him, and reporters barking out questions asking what he had for breakfast and how he shaved. In the streets, everybody knows him, and beautiful women throw themselves at him. Soon enough, even before Allen tells us, we understand it's all a satire on modern celebrity — fame of the Paris Hilton-Bachelorette ilk — in which, as someone eventually explains, people become famous for being famous.

Finally, there's the story of Jerry, a retired U.S. opera producer (Allen), who has come to Rome with his wife (Judy Davis) to meet the man their daughter (Alison Pill) wants to marry. While visiting the guy's family, Jerry gets an earful of the fiance's father (Fabio Armiliato, one of Italy's premier tenors) singing in the shower — and becomes convinced he has discovered the next Caruso.

Next: Rome is both a summing up and completely fresh. »

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