To Romewith Love

To Romewith Love

Runtime 110 minutes.
OK for children.

From l, Alec Baldwin and Jesse Eisenberg in “To Rome with Love.”

Has there ever been a movieland renaissance as refreshing and vital as that experienced by Woody Allen since he transferred his locales for his movies to Europe? He continues, after visiting London(Match Point, 2005), Barcelona (Vicki Cristina Barcelona, 2008), and Paris (Midnight in Paris, 2011) with this excursion intoRome.

As with the others, it is lovingly and beautifully shot (Darius Khondji, who also worked on Midnight in Paris). It can serve as a travelogue, just as the others could.

While it is a comedy, Allen uses this to skewer some easy targets, like the narcissism of actors, the paparazzi-Kardashian creation of ill-deserved fame of mediocre, talentless people, the folly of youthful infatuation, and lots more in a rollicking kaleidoscope comedy.

Allen gets wonderful performances from his typical ensemble cast, including lots of Oscar®-winners and nominees like Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Judy Davis, and Penélope Cruz. They are supported by Alec Baldwin and Greta Gerwig, among many others, including Allen himself, who plays Eisenberg’s father who sees talent in Jesse’s putative father-in-law played by renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato, despite lots of opposition.

Benigni is the ordinary man who becomes famous for doing nothing. Eisenberg is in love with Gerwig, but becomes infatuated with sweet-talking actress Page, all the while being counseled by Baldwin, who is kind of a blithe spirit, advising the young, inexperienced Eisenberg about the truths of what he’s going through. Woody seems to be channeling spirits, like he did with Hemingway and his friends in Midnight in Paris. IsBaldwin really there, or not?

The movie jumps back and forth among these and the other charming vignettes, all telling the story of Romans and their City.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Runtime 100 minutes.
OK for children.

From l, Keira Knightley and Ste-ve Carell in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”

I had my choice between seeing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or this. I chose this because it seemed the least idiotic of the two, although this was a very difficult decision, epitomizing the least of two obvious evils. Even so, I made a bad choice.

I understand that Steve Carell is going around promoting this as a “dark comedy.” It’s dark all right, but I didn’t see anything comedic anywhere.

Directed by screenwriter Lorene Scafaria, in her directing debut, the film opens with a newscaster saying that the world will end in 21 days because a 70-mile wide asteroid is headed straight for the earth. There is no hope. So Steve, whose wife runs out on him in the opening scenes, meets Keira Knightley and they head off on an extended road trip, through alternating scenes of rioting, devastation, and then strange calmness in other parts of the country through which they travel, to find Steve’s high school sweetheart with a secondary objective of Keira returning to her family.

Carell seems to like to play depressed people, and that’s what he does here. In so doing, he transfers the depression to the audience. The only thing that keeps the film moving is Knightley’s optimistic, buoyant outlook and attitude (“I’m optimistic”). Knightley carries the film; the problem is that there is no place for it to go for her to carry it to.

A romance about the end of the world with no hope is a bad idea, especially since there is no humor. This is a romcom without the com, and not a lot of rom. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to see this film, and I couldn’t recommend it, despite Knightley’s fine performance. The clock is ticking throughout the movie towards doomsday. It ticks not for the characters, but for the audience.

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