Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2012. Medusa Film, Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions, Mediapro. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Darius Khondji. Produced by Faruk Alatan, Letty Aronson, Giampaolo Letta, Stephen Tenenbaum. Production Design by Anne Seibel. Costume Design by Sonia Grande. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter.
Woody Allen heads to Italy for a delightful, multi-pronged comedy made up of four different narratives, ranging from sweetly comic to absurd. In one of them, a plot lifted directly from Fellini’s The White Sheik has a newly-married couple getting separated immediately after arriving in the capital city from the sticks, landing the blushing bride into the arms of her favourite movie star while the husband has to pass off a vulgar prostitute (a hilarious Penelope Cruz) as his wife. Woody Allen himself appears, for the first time in one of his films since Scoop, as a retired opera producer who discovers that his daughter’s future father-in-law has a superb voice, but only when singing in the shower; despite the incredulity of his acid-tongued wife (Judy Davis, as only she can do), he decides to produce opera in which the man sings while constantly bathing on stage. Young architecture student Jesse Eisenberg is studying in the city with his girlfriend Greta Gerwig but can’t help but fall madly in love with charismatic, near psychotic Ellen Page (who is miscast and repulsively artificial); thank heavens Alec Baldwin, as an older counterpart to Eisenberg, is always there to magically insert his commentary (which he does to brilliant, acidic perfection). Lastly, Roberto Benigni is superb as an ordinary Roman whose life spontaneously becomes a reality TV show in which the entire nation hangs on his every word and makes news out of the most mundane details of his life. Allen’s swipe at the current state of television and celebrity culture is not subtle, with Benigni suddenly plunged in the deep end of the madness of fame in a story that is the film’s most amusing. The whole affair looks beautiful, the laughs are plenty, and it doesn’t go the route of poignancy that Midnight In Paris did, but it does not need to; this one entertains exceedingly well and fans of the auteur will love indulging in the sunny photography and terrific performances.