Having hit paydirt less than a year ago with “Midnight in Paris” — which, in case you’ve forgotten, became the highest-grossing film of Woody Allen’s career and nabbed him a fourth Oscar to boot — Sony Pictures Classics is clearly keen to woo the same audience that fell for the film’s romantic European charms to his next effort. Originally dubbed “Nero Fiddled,” Allen’s latest has been granted a new title that couldn’t sound much more cannily focus-grouped if it tried: “To Rome With Love.”
If you loved what Woody did for the City of Lights, one imagines the marketers thinking, just wait until you see him in the Eternal City. And fair play to them: with “Paris” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” standing comfortably as Allen’s best-received films of recent years, perhaps including the location in the title has become his lucky charm. (Meanwhile, uninformed viewers could be forgiven for mistaking the film for another entry in the popular recent series of portmanteau films that has given us “Paris Je T’Aime” and “New York, I Love You.”)
The official explanation given for the switch is that “Nero Fiddled” is “an appropriate and humorous phrase in the US, [but] not a familiar expression overseas.” It’s actually the film’s second title change: Allen originally settled on “The Bop Decameron,” before announcing that the Boccaccio-slash-Pasolini reference was too obscure for most audiences. Perhaps his renewed commercial clout has made him savvier in this regard.
Either way, “To Rome With Love” shouldn’t befuddle any viewers hoping for another light comedy of romantic adventures and misadventures in one of the world’s most beautiful cities — which is, reportedly, exactly what the new film is. Whether it can repeat his last film’s success probably depends on whether critics give it the green light, as many did in Cannes last year. The cast, as ever, doesn’t want for names: Allen stars this time, with Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis (yay!), Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page along for the ride.
Sony has confirmed a June 22 release date, neatly positioning it as summer counter-programming for older audiences — a trick that, again, worked dandily for “Paris” last year. The timing also fits with a potential Cannes premiere slot: in recent years, “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and “Midnight in Paris” all debuted on the Croisette, which bodes well for the director’s third consecutive appearance at the fest.
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