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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

To Rome with Love

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Alessandro Tiberi, Roberto Della Casa and Penelope Cruz star in a scene from the movie "To Rome With Love."
With films set in London, Barcelona and Paris under his belt, quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen extends his European tour in "To Rome With Love" (Sony Classics). His farce follows various couples around the Eternal City as they search for romance, happiness, and -- all too frequently -- sin.

Writing, directing and acting, Allen spreads himself a bit thin; his 43rd picture feels jumbled and rushed. However, there are flashes of his vintage wit, and Rome, the real star of the movie, has never looked better. Unfortunately, the central theme—guilt-free adultery -- taints the proceedings and bars full enjoyment.

"To Rome With Love" features a quartet of stories. The first centers on Hayley (Alison Pill), an American student who, during a summer abroad, falls for handsome lawyer Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Their engagement brings Hayley's parents, Phyllis (Judy Davis) and Jerry (Allen), across the Atlantic for a sit-down with the future in-laws.

Michelangelo's father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), is an undertaker with a special talent: While in the shower, he sings like an opera star. (Armiliato is a famous tenor in real life, and so fits the role perfectly.) Jerry, a retired opera director, sees stars amid the soap bubbles, and schemes to have Giancarlo hit the big time—even if it means carting along a portable shower stall.

The second narrative features a honeymoon couple from the provinces, Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) and Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi), who decide to relocate to the capital for a fresh start. But circumstances separate them just as they are due to meet Antonio's relatives and his future employer.

Antonio finds himself with sexy prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz), and must pass her off as his sweet, innocent wife to save face. Milly, on the other hand, stumbles upon a film set and meets her movie-star idol, Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese). The sleazy leading man seduces her, but not before Anna has her way with Antonio.

In the film's ever-so-brief flirtation with morality, the saintly Milly admits it's wrong to break her marriage vows, even with her dream man. She wavers a moment, but quickly decides: What a great story to tell her grandchildren one day!

Really, Grandma?

Then there's famous American architect John (Alec Baldwin) who returns to Rome 30 years after a youthful sojourn there. He meets an early version of himself in Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), and soon starts coaching the lad in the art of seduction.

Though happy with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig), Jack is tempted when Sally's actress friend Monica (Ellen Page) arrives from Hollywood. Sparks fly, and hearts are set to be broken.

The last—and best—of the plotlines concerns Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a perfectly ordinary Roman with a run-of-the-mill family and a humdrum job.

Leopoldo is content with his mundane life—until one day, out of the blue, he's swarmed by the paparazzi and turned into a media sensation for no apparent reason. Initially bewildered, Leopoldo is seduced by the spotlight and all the temptations that go along with being a "celebrity."

If this all seems confusing, it is; "To Rome With Love" is as tangled as the noodles in a bowl of spaghetti. Some mature viewers, well grounded in their faith, may find it a tasty cinematic dish. But it's likely to prove too spicy an offering even for most grownups.

The film contains a benign view of adultery and nonmarital sex, much sexual innuendo, as well as some uses of profanity and of rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Catherine of Siena: The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time. 
<p>She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation. </p><p>She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374. </p><p>Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope </p><p>In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her "children" and was canonized in 1461. </p><p>Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in <i>The Dialogue</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The gates of hell cannot withstand the power of heaven. Gates of sin melt in the presence of saving grace; gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life; gates of falsehood collapse in the presence of living truth; gates of violence are flattened in the presence of divine love. These are the tools with which Christ has equipped his Church.

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