Exploited to some effect is the fear of dying that lurks within the edgy Jewish intellectuals played by Woody Allen in his own films, reprised in To Rome with Love.
As Jerry, the father of a young American engaged to a handsome Roman, he travels to the eternal city only to be reminded, by some minor flight turbulence, of his own mortality. The theme is reinforced by his psychologist wife’s (Judy Davis) perspicacious comments on the inadequacies of his approach to retirement. A former impresario, Jerry becomes fascinated with his future son-in-law’s father, an undertaker (of course), when he hears him singing in the shower. The hilariously far-fetched consequences of this interest serve only to underpin the fact that Jerry’s professional judgment has worsened with age.
Is Allen commenting ironically on his own mature work? He’s certainly loosened up – to the point of creative disorder – with this quartet of tales related only through their location in Rome.
The second story, of a cynical American shopping mall architect (Alec Baldwin) tracking younger alter ego Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) through Trastevere, reflects on the loss of innocence that comes with time and experience – a theme then picked up by the other two tales starring, amongst many others, Roberto Benigni and Penelope Cruz.
These latter stories also reflect the influence of Roman director Fellini on Allen, exploring the cult of celebrity (La Dolce Vita) and women of loose virtue (Nights of Cabiria et al). Too often, however, the lighthearted coupling of a mature setting with stories about maturing is just a little too chaotic and piecemeal.
Surely Allen might have managed something more substantial from the privileged perspective of age.
To Rome With Love | Directed by Woody Allen (Italy, USA, Spain 2011) with Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz. Starts August 30