To Rome With Love
There’s a point in Woody Allen’s latest film where his wife, played by Judy Davis, (a psychiatrist, kept busy with her husband’s neuroses) says to Allen – you equate retirement with death. An insight into Allen’s mind it seems – as the director, who turns 77 this December, churns out his promised yearly movie. He’s reportedly already working on 2013’s and even 2014’s offering.
The question seems to be – are they any good? And even if he might never again capture the brilliance of an Annie Hall or Play It Again Sam, he still has a relevant contribution to make to the big screen.
Last year his romantic comedy Midnight In Paris was a surprise hit with many announcing a return to form. The film was a love letter to the city of light and this year he turns his attentions to the eternal city, Rome.
And the city looks fabulous, cobbled streets, cafes, ancient ruins bathed in ambient sunlight, eccentric Italians and lots of funny farcical moments. There’s a stellar cast that includes Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin and this time, Allen himself.
The first time we see Allen, he’s on a plane travelling with his wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) from the US to Rome to visit his daughter Hayley (Alison Pill) who has fallen in love with an Italian lawyer, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). So enter the Allen that we know and love – nervous, jumpy, awkward, bemoaning the turbulence, and thinking he’s about to die.
And although we don’t see Allen that often, he has the best lines, and produces some funny moments.
There’s a four-part storyline, stories that never intertwine, people that never meet. So it feels a bit disjointed at times. Prostitute Anna, (Penelope Cruz) becomes embroiled in a young couple’s relationship, after newly married Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) gets lost in the city and ends up with a gun pointing at her head during a robbery attempt on a rich actor. Jerry (Woody Allen) is a retired opera director who finds himself interested in his daughter’s soon to be father-in-law Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato). He’s a mortician with a voice of an angel, but can only sing in the shower. And John (Alec Baldwin) finds himself playing the conscience of Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who is falling under the spell of self-centred, fickle actress Monica (Ellen Page). While Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) is an ordinary man catapulted to celebrity status overnight.
Interestingly Eisenberg’s character comes across as awkward, shy, slightly neurotic and fearful and like Owen Wilson in Midnight In Paris, I wonder if Eisenberg will end up playing a future Woody Allen in films to come.
Link to official website: To Rome With Love
The Myth Of The American Sleepover
There wasn’t really too much to worry parents wondering what their teenagers get up to during their school holidays. In fact this movie felt quite nostalgic and touched by innocence. This film was set in Detroit and written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. There were the usual themes, smoking, drinking, skinny dipping, and as the title suggests, sleepovers. Girls were getting together for pyjama parties and the boys for beers and pizza, all armed with their own duvets.
There seemed to be no video games, Xbox, PS3, iPads, FIFA tournaments, or Call Of Duty. Education about the female form seemed to come from innocent looking videos of frolicking girls lifting their t-shirts and various magazines of scantily clad women.
Over in the girl camp there were secret diaries, stealing boyfriends, flirtation and revenge. The most sinister part of the film was watching college dropout Scott (Brett Jacobsen),tracking down a pair of twins he had a crush on in high school, which felt a bit creepy.
The soundtrack, which included Elephant Gun by Beirut and The Saddest Story Ever Told by The Magnetic Fields, fitted the mood and feeling of the movie perfectly.
This film was a case of too much style over substance. Yes, Keira Knightley looked gorgeous. The fashion was scrumptious, bustled skirts, tight boudices, more shiny jewels than a robber’s swag bag, and an abundance of feathers, and furs fluttering in the chilly Russian air. It felt a bit like a fashion/perfume commercial.
The adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel should have been a heavy emotional onslaught. The tale of Anna, (Knightley) married to staid and controlling Alexei Karenin ( Jude Law) who falls for handsome army officer Count Vronsky ( Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is weighty, Tolstoy’s work was originally published in installments. She’s castigated, ostracized, forced to leave her son, and descends into an unhinged madness.
But the film was cold, unemotional and the chemistry unconvincing. Writer Tom Stoppard and director Joe Wright took the brave decision to set the film in a theatre, so at times we saw doors opening to reveal snowy Russian landscapes. Perhaps the stage setting contributed to an overall feeling of detachment? It felt a bit like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, without the singing.
The most interesting character was bizarrely Anna’s husband Alexei Karenin with Jude Law playing the suppressed, gloomy government official convincingly. Anna meanwhile, became quite annoying and while Aaron Taylor-Johnson easily showed the shallowness of Count Vronsky, he struggled to offer the character any greater depth.
A particular high point was the musical score performed by Dario Marianelli, who also scored Pride & Prejudice. Sweeping, romantic and lush, it’s a pity the emotions were swept under the Russian snow.