Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Forgot My Mantra

230) To Rome with Love (2012) Dir: Woody Allen Date Released: June 22, 2012 Date Seen: July 21, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked To Rome with Love. I feel it's more thoughtful and considerably less one-note than Midnight in Paris, which I also liked but to a lesser extent. I also like how casual Rome's warmth and intelligence is. Allen sets up the notion that his version of the city is necessarily an illusory view of Rome. The intentionally clunky line, "Ozymandias Melancholia," that Alec Baldwin's character uses is as effective as it is because it suggests that everything about the city is a warm but unreal projection. The variations on that theme that ensue are thus a wistful but knowingly adrift in nostalgia and context-less memories. 

There are also a number of ideas and themes here in Rome that Allen has previously explored in the past filling out the margins of this sunny tribute to the Italian portmanteau sex comedies of the '70s. I'm especially taken with the sex-positive attitude of the honeymooner's divergent subplots, especially the off-the-cuff way that Penelope Cruz's character relates Allen's usual preoccupation with the moral loophole that prostitutes present (basically, she asks: why is it that men are ok with exploring sex with a hooker and not with someone they'd consider as a hetero-normative partner? That question is also asked in the excellent Shadows and Fog).

 Hell, the use of Cruz's dress alone made me smile. She clearly did not fit that thing and the distracting girdle she's wearing to keep her tummy (?!?!) in is just further proof that, yes, the heart wants what it wants. And in this case, the heart wants Penelope Cruz's spectacular cleavage threatening to burst up and out of a red-and-black polka dot dress.

Oh, and I also laughed a lot. I think most of the film's jokes hit and that's partly because there's a sneaky intelligence to them. For instance, I laughed a lot during the man-sings-in-shower-on-stage subplot, especially when he performs key scenes from Pagliacci in the shower (the scene where he applies his make-up and contemplates the performative aspect of being a clown, while during the performance our singer applies body wash to his face: hilarious). But it's also because there's a lot of really good, immediately satisfying zingers here, including, "Your mother married a great imbecile!"

I don't know, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. What exactly do you people want from Woody Allen anymore, exactly?

Wait, don't answer that.

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