Woody Allen, once reckoned the New York director, has in recent years hit the tourist trail, making movies in London (three times), Paris (twice), Barcelona – and now Rome.
His last, Midnight In Paris, was unexpectedly charming and his biggest hit ever.
Sadly, his latest isn’t one for the ages. Rather than a single plotline, what we get are four anecdotes.
In one, a recently retired opera director (Allen) and his wife (Judy Davis), in Rome to meet their daughter’s Italian fiancé, find that the lad’s father is a superb, undiscovered operatic tenor.
A young Italian couple from the provinces, in town to meet his rich relatives and hoping for a job, get separated; he has to pass off a hooker as his wife while she’s romanced by a movie star.
An American student (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) are visited by her flirtatious friend (Ellen Page), and he becomes besotted with her. An older man (Alec Baldwin) watches and comments on the action.
And the dullest guy in Rome (Roberto Benigni) becomes an overnight celebrity for no discernible reason.
Though the stories are intercut they’re not interconnected, nor do they throw any light on each other. Several are derivative: the provincial couple’s story rips off Fellini’s early The White Sheik, while the device of Baldwin as seen/unseen commentator was done far better in Play It Again, Sam.
Perhaps sensing the thinness of his material, Allen throws in some desperate bids for giggles.
Finding that his unknown singer can only perform in the shower, the maestro mounts a production of Pagliacci – with the hero naked in a shower throughout.
This is even less funny to watch than it is to describe.
Four trivial stories, forced laughs: don’t expect much more from Allen’s latest postcard from Europe.