Using the amazing city of Rome as his background, writer/director Woody Allen weaves four separate stories creating a humorous and charming tapestry of human foibles. As with most Woody Allen films, he directs an all star cast and for the first time in quite a while, plays one of the characters himself. The film may lack the magic of "Midnight in Paris" but it contains a wonderful flavor of it's own.
Alex Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Pace, and Greta Gerwig star in an interesting love triangle with a very possible magical element that Mr. Allen will leave the viewer to decide. Roberto Benigni is an everyman who suddenly becomes famous for no apparent reason and Mr. Allen gets a chance to ruminate on the fleeting nature of fame. Penelope Cruz is a prostitute who enters the life of a young newlywed in a most unexpected circumstance. And the remaining tale stars Mr. Allen himself (costarring with Judy Davis and Allison Pill) as a retired opera director who discovers a new talent in a very unusual way. Mr. Allen cuts back and forth between all four stories rather than film them in a linear fashion and that serves to keep the viewer very engaged.
As he has done with recent films set in other European cities, Mr. Allen and his cinematographer, Darius Khondji incorporate the beauty of Rome into his various plots to the point it becomes a character itself. Mr. Allen also uses many international stars who may not be well known to American audiences but they add authentic flavor to the film.
As Mr. Allen continues his love affair with Europe, we can only guess which city will serve as his next backdrop. It's clear that filming overseas has recharged his creative batteries and I look forward to his next film with great anticipation.