Antonio (Riccardo Scarmacio) and Milly (Allesandra Mastronardi)
Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Monica (Ellen Page)
Jerry (Woody Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis)
A Woody Allen movie we have come to recognise carries the words and thoughts of Woody Allen in all of the characters, male and female. Most of the time we do not mind it because Woody Allen thoughts and witticisms are quite interesting. He also specialises in man-woman equations, probing all the possibilities and looking at it all in the most clinical way. That does not make the portrayal of man-woman relationships in his movies either dour or cynical. Woody Allen is on that impossible American quest for finding the ultimate romantic happiness through all the complications and diversions, betrayals and disappointments.
We have the simple attraction between Italian Michelangelo, a lawyer and the American tourist Hayley. Allen plays Jerry, father to Hayley and also the impresario and manager to artists. He is restless in a Woody Allenish way of course which is to been seen in his first scene in the movie when he says that he likes turbulence during air travel and that he is an atheist who has to face up to turbulence on his own.
Then there is the attraction between Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Monica (Ellen Page). This is the perfect Woody Allen couple flirting dangerously and suddenly Monica goes to live her dream of being an actress and visit a Far Eastern country like Japan. Monica starts off being a perfect peudo-intellectual before she shows her innocent selfishness and self-centredness.
There is simple love story of Antonio (Riccardio Scamarcio) and Milly (Allesandra Matsronardi), who arrive in Rome from a smaller Italian place. Antonio is waylaid by Anna (Penelope Cruz) and Milly by Luca (Antonio Albanese), the star.
In many ways, the man-woman equations in Woody Allen movies are not weighed down by emotional tangles. The problem arises because every one of them wants to grab every opportunity that comes their way and still retain the little certainties in their lives. And they almost seem to do it.
That is why, Woody Allen's portrayal of agonising choices of his protagonists is never morbid, especially in this film. There is laughter and it takes the form of a comedy of manners.
You are left wondering as to why Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz were performing almost the roles of extras, because they are secondary characters in the plot.
The three women who really shine in the movie are Allesandra Mastronardi, Ellen Page and Judy Davis and that is indeed the triumph of this Woody Allen film. Of course, there is an excellent musical score because of one the sub-plots, especially snatches from Italian opera, from Verdi and Puccini et al. And Rome has been photographed with great love.