Sometimes the secret to success is failure and the shortcut to failure is success. (Profound, don't you think?) Of course sometimes a clever rule is just a clever rule. But I digress.
If you regularly read my blog you know that Woody Allen is one of my favorites. And one of the only things I can count on in this oh-so-unpredictable world is that I'll get to enjoy 90 to 105 minutes of Woody Allen filmmaking a year. He's very consistent, having made around 43 films in the last 43 years. That's an impressive record by any standard. Of course they're not all gems. In fact, his films tend to go in waves. Often a great one will follow a not-so-great one and vice versa. It's as if he gets motivated by critical failures, while his creativity gets stifled by critical success. Of course, I'm a fan of even his lesser received work, and I just hope he keeps making them for a long time to come.
After the huge success of 'Midnight in Paris', probably the best in his career, it's clear to me that Allen decided he had to construct his next script under certain rules. It would have to take place in Europe, in a city equally beautiful to Paris if not more so. It would be a comedy, as many but not all of his films are. And, it would have to have elements of fantasy. OK, sounds good to me! And, like all of his films, he was blessed with a dream cast. I can't recall how many talented and successful actors I've heard say that when Woody calls, you just go. Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, and Woody Allen himself (for the first time on screen since 'Scoop' in 2006) make up the enviable ensemble cast for four interwoven but separate storylines that take place in Rome, all with an element of fantasy. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a very enjoyable movie. And to a large extent it is. It's just lacking the 'je ne sais quoi' of 'Midnight in Paris'. The Baldwin/Eisenberg/Page/Gerwig storyline is the best of the four, but the rest just aren't quite as fun as I would have preferred. Unlike 'Paris', this one won't be an Oscar nominee. But it's a pretty good movie to see on a date or a weekend afternoon and pretend you live in Rome, if only for 102 minutes.