Picks of the Week
‘To Rome With Love’
(R, 112 minutes, in English and a fair amount of subtitled Italian, Sony Home Entertainment): The comic roundelay opens with narration by an anonymous Roman traffic cop talking directly to the camera as cars whiz by. Filmmaker Woody Allen’s Rome-set story unfolds as a bumper-to-bumper backup of multiple, interconnected tales about love, lust and the swirl of humanity. Somewhere in here is a real movie, but it’s hard to find in all the mess (which, despite everything, is actually funny from time to time). It’s as bustling as its titular city’s piazzas, but it goes nowhere. Contains sexual situations and some obscenity. Extras: “Con Amore: A Passion for Rome” featurette on Allen’s filmmaking process, featuring interviews with Baldwin, Penelope Cruz and Greta Gerwig.
(R, 112 minutes, in French with English subtitles, The Weinstein Co.): A box-office smash in France, this is a feel-good movie about a distinctly feel-bad subject: quadriplegia.
The fact-based story, which focuses on the relationship between Philippe, a white millionaire paralyzed in a paragliding accident, and Driss, the black hustler who becomes his live-in caregiver, neatly avoids most of the mess and stress of the subject. Aside from a scene or two hinting at Driss’ initial reluctance to change Philippe’s diapers, there’s little to suggest that there’s anything terribly disagreeable about the setup.
The two go for break-neck car rides, goof around with shaving cream and, in general, have a great time. The lens through which the “The Intouchables” was filmed may be too rose-colored for some people’s taste, but the window that these talented performers throw open – a window onto the strange and touching friendship between two very different men – is crystal clear.
Contains obscenity, drug use and some suggestive material.
‘Won’t Back Down’
(PG, 121 minutes, Fox): Viewed through one lens, “Won’t Back Down” has the contours of a David-and-Goliath story, this time about moms who face down an educational bureaucracy to get the school their kids deserve.
When two women (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) join forces to turn their school around, it’s impossible not to cheer their solidarity and perseverance. And it’s even more impossible not to boo and hiss when the teachers union representatives foil the women’s efforts.
This is where a second lens proves useful: More than a portrait of motherly outrage, the movie has been designed as an anti-union, pro-charter screed. Based loosely on the “parent trigger” laws in California enabling citizens to take control of failing schools, the film passes over the questionable results from those takeovers.
Contains thematic elements and profanity. Extras: commentary with director, deleted scenes and “Importance of Education” featurette. The Washington Post