Even Woody Allen can be a mediocre director, and here’s proof
There is a dividing line between homage and plagiarism, and Woody Allen treads that in To Rome With Love. Yes, we all admire Federico Fellini, and the city of Rome was, after all, the maestro’s muse, but to lift themes from two of his films—La Dolce Vita and Roma—as Allen does, and then weave them into two of the contemporary stories that he follows in To Rome with Love is stretching it.
La Dolce Vita (1960) is about a celebrity journalist called Marcello and his photographer friend, Paparazzo (the term ‘paparazzi’ originates from this character), and the central theme in the film is how the celebrity media turns the city of Rome and its citizens and visitors into caricatures. One of the four concurrent plot lines that Woody Allen follows in To Rome With Love is exactly about this, and the other stories, too, have elements of how celebrity culture overwhelms people into doing things they would ordinarily never do.
Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), an ordinary Roman, wakes up one morning and finds that the paparazzi has turned him into a celebrity. He is asked what he eats for breakfast, beautiful women want to sleep with him and his daily life is turned inside out. He starts off detesting the media focus, but at the end, after the spotlight has turned to someone else, starts longing for it.
Another story is about John (Alec Baldwin), who visits Rome after many years and has memories of the city he knew as a young man, so different from the Rome of 2012. He meets an architecture student called Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who reminds him of his youth in the architectural wonder that is Rome. Fellini’s Roma (1972) is also essentially a juxtaposition between memories of the city the director has as a young man, and the one he looks at in the early 1970s.
To Rome With Love is a disappointing film. Is this really Woody Allen’s?