Friday, January 25, 2013

"In One Person" and "To Rome With Love"

Just finished reading  John Irving’s novel  “In One Person” which I found engrossing for most of its over 400pgs. The novel is the life story of a bi-sexual writer told in first person covering more than 40 years in time and is full  of the kind of quirky characters one expects from Irving and I was amazed  by just how gay the novel is. There are several transgender characters who the main character has loving (and sexual) relationships with besides a cross dressing grandfather, and a gay father who deserts him and his mother for another man. I know that Irving has included transgender characters before but the spotlight focus on them in this novel took me by pleasant surprise. He also writes tenderly of the AIDS crisis which almost brought me to tears as I read the novel on the subway. It kind of limps to a close, and some of the coincidences might seem a bit too much but its humanity and humor embraced me for the entire read.

Wish I had kinder words for Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” his latest travelogue through angst, despair and comedy. This one which came and went rapidly in theatres uses 4 separate little stories about love and sex in the eternal city, one of which is so derivative  of Fellini’s great “The White Sheik” that Allen should have given screenplay credit to Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. The best one concerns Allen who is a retired classical music promoter who comes to Rome with his exasperated psychiatrist wife played by the wonderful Judy Davis (no one in their right mind would ever believe that these two would be married to each other) to visit their daughter who has fallen in love with an young very left leaning lawyer. The daughter (played by an uncomfortable looking Alison Pill) whose future father in law an undertaker with a superb is singing voice that only comes to full richness when he sings in the shower. Allen plots a way for the shower tenor to make it big in opera, and there lies the fun of this sequence. The other episodes are less enjoyable mainly because of the tiredness of the plots and the annoying casting and miscasting of his actors. Jesse Eisenberg (standing in for a young Woody and Ellen Page are  so unappealing and unattractive that I could never buy them as sexually attractive characters who are hot for each other, there is no chemistry between them, they are like two wet limp pieces of laundry hanging out in the Roman noonday sun. Alex Baldwin (standing in for a middle age Woody) is also in this sequence and is his usual scary and angry self and Greta Gerwig is just barely there. The worst sequence has the impossible and annoying Roberto Benigni who plays a common office worker, an everyday slob who suddenly finds himself in unwanted and surreal celebrity that becomes very tiring after about 2 minutes. Also in the cast is Penelope Cruz as a prostitute in a tight short red dress who Allen uses to spice up the “The White Sheik” rip-off.


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