For the last several years, Woody Allen has been creating a series of cinematic postcards; every year or two he sends another one from some major European capital. He sent a few from London, one from Barcelona, another from Paris, and now we have the glimpse at his next missive, To Rome With Love.
I found Midnight in Paris charming, if slight; Match Point engaging, if slight; Vicky Cristina Barcelona fun, if slight. Which is fine: As the critic Richard Brody has argued in defense of the later Allen, the great writer-director is basically sketching at this point. But a few of his later movies have been worse than slight; some have been nearly unwatchable. Where will To Rome with Love fit in Allen's oeuvre?
The trailer does not suggest an encouraging answer. Yes, it looks beautiful, in keeping with the picture-postcard appearance of Allen's "European period." And the cast is typically excellent, full of intriguing newcomers to the world of Woody—Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg—and some very welcome return visitors, including Judy Davis, Penelope Cruz, and Alec Baldwin.* Roberto Benigni gives one pause, but seems well-used here; Ellen Page, on the other hand, appears miscast as a character whom men are drawn to "because of the sexual vibe that she gives off."
The intriguingly sexual and mysterious woman is a stock figure from Woody Allen movies, not particularly to their credit; as Dana Stevens pointed out when the Culture Gabfest discussed Midnight in Paris, Allen has never totally shaken a sexist streak that occasionally mars his movies. To Rome with Love, which also features Penelope Cruz as a prostitute, looks like it may suffer from that problem.
A more pressing one? The jokes in this trailer just aren't very funny. As an alien once said to Sandy Bates, if "you want to do mankind a real service, tell funnier jokes." Here's hoping there are a few of those in the rest of the movie.
Previously from the Trailer Critic:
* This post originally described Alec Baldwin as a newcomer to Woody Allen's movies. Baldwin appeared in Allen's 1990 film Alice.