By Anuva Kulkarni:
If, on some lonely evening, you find yourself alone, with nothing to do, holding onto a bowl of noodles and wondering what to watch, this is the perfect movie for you. Four stories unfold in the city that has inspired artists for hundreds of years, starring Woody Allen himself, with a cast perfectly suited to the roles they are playing.
The film begins with the classic ‘Volare’ (Meaning: Fly) by Domenico Modugno, a song that, from now on, I will always think of when I think about Rome.
You then meet Hayley, an American on a holiday, who meets the dreamy-eyed Michelangelo, an Italian lawyer, when she gets lost while trying to find tourist attractions in the city (women can’t read maps, remember?) Hayley’s life turns into the classic American love story — she met a stunningly handsome Roman at the Trevi fountain and fell in love with him. Soon enough, her parents are flying in from America to meet the fiancÃ©. Hayley’s mother is a psychiatrist and her father (Woody Allen), now retired, who was once in the record business, equates retirement with death and is desperately looking for something to work on. Michelangelo’s dad, it seems, turns into an opera singer when in the shower and Hayley’s father jumps at the opportunity to turn him into a star and takes him on as a new project, leading to disputes, much yelling, singing and an out-of-the-box idea.
Alec Baldwin plays John, an architect returning to Rome after thirty years, having lived there when he was “young and in love and a complete fool“. Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) is his alter ego from the past, only that he is a real young man in the present. John sees himself in Jack, acts like Jack’s conscience and keeps popping up during the course of the younger architect’s passionate affair with an actress, Monica (Ellen Page) who thinks “there is something attractive about a man who is sensitive to the agonies of existence“. Together, the two ‘sufferers’ dream of a life with each other, wrapped in their newfound romance and gushing at how perfect they are for each other. It has all the signs of a wonderful, too-good-to-be-true fairytale. But that’s what such fairytales always are. Too good to be true.
Meanwhile, a young, newly married couple gets separated in the city and both of them have their own adventures. Penelope Cruz storms into the life of Antonio, the groom. Beautiful and strong, she is the exact opposite of Milly, his bride. Milly, at the same time, is being taken out to lunch by a famous Italian actor — an encounter that leaves the small town girl fluff-headed and giggly, with seriously clouded judgment.
Leopoldo is an average citizen, very uninteresting and very predictable, and this irks him a great deal. But overnight, he finds that he has transformed into a celebrity who is followed everywhere by the paparazzi, asking him what he’s had for breakfast, whether he wears boxers or briefs, even his opinion on the weather. All of these trivial things about him curiously begin to matter very much to everyone. Flattered by the attention at first, because it’s the first time he is getting any, Leopoldo ultimately realizes, after his adventure, that a man could grow weary of being famous just as he can grow weary of being ordinary.
These four unconnected stories set in the enchanting city of Rome leave you smiling at the end, wishing the movie had gone on and on, and that there had been more stories to know and more of Italy to see. You never get bored throughout and the stories don’t appear to be in separate blocks or abrupt in any way. Each one takes its time, touching upon feelings, youth and life’s trials in a gentle way, with the fun element always close at hand. This movie is one that I would play again when I want to feel the magical effect that Rome has on every person that sets foot on its soil.