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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

(Jesse Eisen­berg), whom we younger ver­sion of him­self.

And so it goes on. Jack in­tro­duces John to his girl­friend, Sally (Greta Ger­wig), who is await­ing the ar­rival from the States of her friend Mon­ica (Ellen Page), a fey ac­tress with in­tel­lec­tual pre­ten­sions and, for me, the film’s fun­ni­est char­ac­ter. Allen de­lights in send­ing up pseudo-in­tel­lec­tu­als (see Mid­night in Paris) and has great fun with Mon­ica, whose favourite ar­chi­tect is Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand’s novel The Foun­tain­head. Mon­ica has a smart line for ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion, but is never quite sure what they mean. In this com­pany Bald­win’s char­ac­ter be­comes a kind of nar­ra­tor, drift­ing in and out of scenes to philosophise or pon­tif­i­cate or of­fer ad­vice when emo­tional com­pli­ca­tions threaten to get the bet­ter of peo­ple. But is John is a real per­son or a fig­ment of Jack’s con­flicted psy­che?

Then there’s Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a subur­ban of­fice worker who leaves home one morn­ing to find him­self be­sieged, for no ap­par­ent rea­son, by the pa­parazzi. In­ter­view­ers ply him with ba­nal ques­tions and are sat­is­fied with equally ba­nal replies. Be­wil­dered at first, Leopoldo be­gins to rel­ish this sud­den adu­la­tion, un­til the day comes (quite soon) when the me­dia lose in­ter­est in him and turn their at­ten­tion, on an equally ran­dom im­pulse, to an­other nonen­tity, leav­ing Leopoldo to re­sume his for­mer dull but con­tented ex­is­tence.

The evanes­cent and mere­tri­cious na­ture of celebrity is beau­ti­fully satirised by Allen, who is of course no stranger to fame him­self. And there is a nice irony in the thought that Benigni was once the cen­tre of me­dia at­ten­tion when he clam­bered over seats to claim the best

take

to

be

a for­eign film Os­car for Life Is Beau­ti­ful (in 1999). It oc­curred to me that none of Allen’s pic­tures has ever won a best pic­ture Os­car, and that Woody must be keenly aware of it.

Pene­lope Cruz pro­vides a lus­trous pres­ence as a call­girl per­suaded to mas­quer­ade as the wife of a new­ly­wed from the prov­inces while the real wife, lost in the streets of Rome, finds her­self se­duced by a movie star (An­to­nio Al­banese).

These and other play­ful di­ver­sions are all lightly sketched and spiced with Allen’s usual quota of witty lines. But noth­ing beats that old Flint­stones joke. Michelan­gelo’s dad, Gian­carlo, is an un­der­taker, a suitably solemn char­ac­ter who re­veals a hid­den tal­ent when singing un­der the shower. On hear­ing him, Jerry per­suades him to take an au­di­tion, sens­ing a pos­si­ble re­vival of his own ca­reer. We all sound good singing un­der the shower — pro­vided no one else can hear us — and that’s the beauty of the joke. When Gian­carlo is wheeled on to an opera house stage to sing some lusty aria while soap­ing him­self be­hind a mo­bile shower screen, it’s a re­flec­tion of all our wish-ful­fill­ing fan­tasies, trib­ute to our nar­cis­sism.

To Rome with Love has corny bits, mo­ments of silly farce, but Allen’s touch is as sparkling as ever. Be­hind the hu­mour is a lin­ger­ing mood of re­gret, al­most of sad­ness. It’s not one of Woody’s great films but it’s con­stantly en­joy­able. One can only hope he will go on mak­ing more, and that one day, per­haps, he will win that best pic­ture Os­car he surely de­serves.

per­haps

a

sub­tle

To Rome with Love

Ellen Page and Jesse Eisen­berg in

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