A good tour guide can find his way in the dark, blind-folded with his hands tied behind his back. He knows the heartbeat of the city and moves in sync with its rhythm. This takes years to master and requires an unwavering ability to locate true north. Woody Allen's latest comedy "To Rome With Love," released today nationwide, shows that though he is an exceptional artist, he lacks one thing- a sense of purpose and direction.
"To Rome With Love" (rated R for sexual references, including the discussion of a homosexual encounter) is an indulgent pastiche of sentiment, nostalgia and cultural critique recounting the Roman experiences of several characters-a well-known American architect (Alec Balwin), who counsels a younger version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg) through a painful romantic encounter with his girlfriend's house guest (Ellen Page); a pair of Italian newlyweds (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi), who find themselves entangled in a comedy of errors in the big city; a middle-class Italian businessman (Roberto Benigni), who becomes a celebrity overnight for no reason; and Jerry, a retired American opera director (Allen), who comes to Rome to meet his future son-in-law, Michalangelo (Flavio Parenti). While there, Jerry accidentally discovers the innate operatic talents of Michalangelo's father, Giancarlo, an Italian mortician (tenor Fabio Armiliato) with a beautiful voice. Jerry believes he's found a way to reinvigorate his career, but the only place Giancarlo can sing is in the shower.
Each vignette is fairly amusing and offers plenty of cultural commentary, but as the story goes slowly nowhere, views get the sense that Allen is using these micro-plots to distract viewers from the fact that there is no ultimate truth in this tale. Each character has personal standards - they're too weak to be called morals - but as temptation comes their way, they fail to live up to them. Instead of criticizing this lack of resolve, direction and purpose, Allen uses their foibles as comedic tool and nothing else. He has no resolution or redemption to offer them, just a sentimental overlay of empty well wishing and a few wry chuckles.
This should come as no a surprise to Christians. When you don't have the true North of the gospel to guide you, you have no overarching plot line, no meta-narative, no direction. Life is a collection of unrelated experiences and intertwining streets, cobbled together in the land of the eternally lost.