28 July 2012

To Rome With Love

Midnight in Paris, though not a phenomenal film, had somewhat renewed my hopes that Woody Allen might start making Woody Allen movies again (though I did not dislike his non-Woody Allen movies - Vicky Christina Barcelona was great). Alas, To Rome With Love is a pale shadow of a Woody Allen film. The all star cast seems to have been instructed to tamp down their performances as much as possible (why put Benigni in a movie if you're looking for restraint?), so most of the fun has been throttled out of it. What little spark there is in the largely bland dialogue is stifled after being delivered with what seems like dogged determination and grim resolve. Even Allen himself, back in his usual role, is utterly without energy. As a result, the somewhat absurd plot seems listless and random, without anything to grab on to and care about.

It's a real pity, because it could be a fun movie. Parts of it manage to be entertaining anyhow, and one character, a seemingly chaste young wife, even musters a delightful eroticism that makes adultery seem charming. One of the amusements of Woody Allen's recent movies is watching young actors play stock roles from his catalogue: Jesse Eisenberg does a good turn as the nervously chattering Woody Allen type, but Ellen Paige is rather unfortunately miscast as the quirky crazed pixie fatale. In general, the Italians are better than the Americans, maybe partly just because they're new faces. Another reliable pleasure is setting, and while Rome doesn't get the lavish attention that Paris or New York does, it still looks quite nice.

Overall though, a bland and rather mediocre film. Alas, alas.


mathmaniac said...

what do you think of the booker 2012 longlist? would love to get your opinion :)

culture_vulture said...

Haven't read any of 'em. Haven't even heard of most of 'em. I've read a few Hillary Mantel books (http://kasiapontificates.blogspot.com/search?q=mantel) - I liked some, wouldn't say I especially loved any, and I'm not racing to read this one.
Honestly, my reading in new new fiction is kind of random - I occasionally pick up something at a bookstore if it catches my eye or I hear something interesting about it (I'm reading Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence right now, for example, because Elif Batuman wrote a piece about it that intrigued me - http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n11/elif-batuman/diary ). But overall, my attitude towards highly praised recent fiction is one of skepticism and mistrust. The vast majority of the time, the books are not nearly as good as they're made out to be. Very few of them seem to really stand the test of time. Same can be said, unfortunately, of the nominees for various honors and prizes. If you look back over the Booker archives (the website is supremely irritating, but oooh! Elif Batuman will be a judge next year! God I would love to be a judge on such a committee.) you'll find that the lists from years past are a somewhat surprisingly blend of excellent and totally mediocre (and some fantastic books didn't make the cut from long to short list!). So who knows. I definitely tune in to hear who won, but it's out of idle curiosity rather than deep emotional investment. But some of the books on this list look intriguing; I'll probably check a few out.

mathmaniac said...

thanks for your comment :) i agree with you there- sometimes those books just don't grip me. for instance, i didn't enjoy that peter carey book- 'parrot and olivier in america'. it's just my opinion, but i found it a little dull. They say hillary mantel is the probable frontrunner this time.