The 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival opened with the North American premiere of Woody Allen's anthology To Rome With Love. The writer/director/co-star was on hand to introduce a few female members of the cast who were in attendance (from left to right: Penelope Cruz, Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill, Allesandra Mastronardi, and Simona Caparrini) and to offer a few words on the film, such as how he enjoyed making it though he's well aware that's no guarantee the audience will enjoy watching it. The film offers four separate stories that take place around the Italian capital featuring men unsatisfied with their lives.
Allen, making his first appearance in one of his own films since Scoop, plays Jerry, a retired opera director whose daughter Haley's (Pill) future father-in-law has a great singing voice. The trouble is he only sings well in the shower, but that won't stop Jerry from trying to make him into a star. While the joke is taken to its obvious conclusion, Allen's execution allows it to work better than it should.
Alec Baldwin is John, an architect of shopping malls who used to live and go to school in Rome. He relives a dramatic turning point in his life when he crosses paths with Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who finds himself in a similar situation when he falls for his girlfriend Sally's (Gerwig) friend Monica (Ellen Page). While she's an interesting character, Allen never makes you believe Monica is a great enough seductress that a man would leave Sally for her. The sexual vibe she allegedly gives off is barely there. Baldwin is the best part of the segment. John is very amusing giving Jack unheeded advice.
Roberto Benigni is Leopoldo Pisanello, a regular guy who becomes an overnight celebrity with all the trappings that come with it. Allen uses this segment to comment on those famous for being famous and the media, though what he says about the former may be surprising.
Newly married Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Mastronardi) have come to Rome from their Italian small town in the hopes that Antonio's uncles and aunts can get him a job with very important people. Things go sideways, when Milly gets lost looking for a salon and ends up on a movie set in the company of a famous actor she admires. Meanwhile, a prostitute (Cruz) is mistakenly sent to Antonio's room as a gift meant for someone else. When his family shows up, she pretends to be is wife in order to help him.
The stories all have interesting premises but the conclusions come off as prefunctory and there's little in the movie that's memorable once the credits roll. Cinematographer Darius Khondji showcases the city with some great location shots, but Antonio and Milly's story is the only one where the Roman, or at least a European, setting was needed because of the sexual sensibilities.
To Rome With Love is a light comedy with enough amusing moments to make viewing the film worthwhile for Allen fans, though not enough to make it required, especially to those beyond that group as last year's Midnight in Paris was. It would make for a nice way to pass an afternoon before grabbing an Italian meal. It opens in NY and LA on June 22.