Woody Allen is infamous for making films that shed light upon the oft-overlooked impulsive behaviors of people; for creating comedy out of awkwardness, gawkiness, and illegitimate moments, and for highlighting that sexual thread which runs through almost every nuance of human communication.
Although his films tend to encompass above all issues of sexual attraction, young love, and infidelity, they do so with a certain lightness–almost absurdness–that somehow makes it seem okay. Set in beautiful sunny Rome, Italy in the summertime, the film features four separate vignettes that come together to unleash a sort of a moral anti-code. The leading male character in each of his vignettes could be perceived from the correct angle as the Woody Allen character, as each delves into their own form of sexual deviance, betraying their girlfriends, fiancees, wives, and lovers, and possibly even themselves, in what may be Allen’s most ridiculous romantically swashbuckling film to date.
First there is Hayley the American tourist and her gallant Italian lawyer lover Michelangelo. His father, who is an undertaker, is also an amazing shower opera singer. Woody Allen plays Hayley’s father Jerry, a semi-retired opera producer who is married to a psychiatrist.
Then there are newlyweds Antonio and Milly, in Rome on a visit, as they are planning to move from a small town in the South of Italy. In an attempt to locate a local hair salon to update her look, Milly gets lost in Rome and stumbles upon a movie star shooting a scene, who then invites her out on a date. Meanwhile, while he is waiting for her return, her husband Antonio receives an unexpected visitor in their hotel room from Anna, a call girl who has been assigned the wrong room, played by Penelope Cruz. Chaos ensues.
Then there is Jack, a young architecture student who cohabitates with his girlfriend Sally–two New Yorkers studying abroad, whose innocent cultural meanderings are interrupted by the arrival of smouldering-hot and sexual recently brokenhearted Monica (played by Ellen Page), Sally’s best friend from New York, who comes to Rome to mend her wounded little heart. Finally, there is a fourth story involving Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni) as an Italian middle-class worker turned household name, who through an accidental twist of fate becomes the darling of the Italian paparazzi and comes to enjoy the attention from everyone–including all of the decadent young females who suddenly surround him.
Although it is by no means a film with much major substance, To Rome With Love is peppered with just the right amount of real Italian cultural morsels–music, food, language, and custom–to make it intriguing and mildly intellectual. On top of this, it is fun, light, entertaining, and a barrel of laughs. A fantastic film to watch for pure enjoyment5, those craving escape, exoticism, a healthy dose of immoral sin, or an alternate take on love.