[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
You never know what you're going to get with a Woody Allen poster. Sometimes, it's a great beauty like the one-sheet for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which slices its lead trio's faces in half, leaving each with an eye that's free to wander. Sometimes, as with the poster for Midnight in Paris, it's an inspired merger of film still and relevant masterpiece. Other times, it's a hasty design without a plan, as has been the case with both posters for Allen's latest, To Rome with Love.
Continuing the director's love affair with European hotspots, this cryptically described romantic jaunt has all the signs of an Allen misfire, seemingly tossed together from casting to marketing. The initial poster was an odd mix of cells, swoony backdrops, and awkward clipping paths, which allowed the title to be flanked by clownish cutouts of Roberto Benigni and Allen himself, back on screen for the first time since Scoop. The second poster can't even earn points for tasteful minimalism, so lazy and generic is its whitewashed approach. Both ads don't just imply that no one knows how to sell this thing, but that no one particularly cares about putting in the effort.
The new poster's closest cousin is an early one for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which similarly shrugged its shoulders with black and red on white, pairing cast and title with a scribbled playing card graphic. To Rome with Love's sparse ad doesn't reach much higher, stamping a scarlet kiss mark on top of the titular city's seal. There's an iota of design merit to the fact that one could read the end result as a play on a smooched napkin, but, then, this isn't exactly something that should associate itself with disposable objects. What the whole thing suggests, even with the use of Allen's signature font, is that the film is worth your time simply because it's a Woody outing. It's something of a condescending invitation, presumably made on the cheap to save dough for a pricey dish like Penélope Cruz, who's back in Nine territory to do her va-va-Viva-Italia bit. In short, it's almost enough to give the film the kiss-off.