There is something immediately comforting about siting down to a Woody Allen movie. As a long time fan of this celebrated, iconic director what was presented to me was very familiar … minimalist opening credits, a collection of characters discussing relationships, art, interior design with enthusiasm and intelligence … that gentle jazz background music. Classic Allen harking back to Manhattan. Then of course we get Cate Blanchet as a stuck up New York socialite brought crashing down to earth after her wealthy husband (Alec Baldwin) is found out to be a crook, and she has to slum it with her ghetto sister Ginger and Ginger’s Italian boyfriends…
Blanchet, one of the finest actors of her generation shines as the neurotic, troubled, egocentric forced to start again, but seemingly unable to accept that her life is very different now. A character study of a woman with seemingly everything handed to her on a plate, who reluctantly has to actually work to make something of herself. Good support comes from Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale as one of Ginger’s boyfriends, and Sally Hawkins as Ginger is suitably likable and the polar opposite to Blanchet. Allen’s direction can not be sniffed at either, with his camera work really casting a beautiful glow on Blanchet, arguably one of the most uniquely attractive actresses around. Swapping his usual New York setting for San Francisco gives the movie plenty of character, even if this isn’t as with other movie’s in the director’s back catalogue … a love letter to the city.
Perhaps Allen at his lightest, it lacks the genuine wit and charm of something like Annie Hall or even the more recent Midnight In Paris, but with a strong, complex central performance I still came away with a smile.
It’s been a long time since I have sat down to watch a movie by directing legend Woody Allen. I’m not sure why but my love of his brand of whimsical, angst-ridden relationship comedies, has waned over the years, and have found myself less and less interested in his output, which continues to be one of the most prolific outputs of any director currently working. Yet post-Oscar season, this latest effort sparked my interest.
Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter who takes a holiday in Paris to work on his novel with fiance Rachel McAdams and her upper-class friends. Yet he finds their company disenchanting, and although adoring Paris and its inspirational mystique, finds himself taking solitary midnight walks to gather his thoughts. That’s when he is transported back into the 1920’s and starts mingling with the famous names of the era, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Pacasso and Salvador Dali etc. This is a great concept and a perfect fit for Woody Allen’s often over-used nervy navel gazing lead characters and relationship woes. The Paris locales are shot beautifully, clearly offering a love letter to the city like he did with New York in his classic Manhattan, and the writing is as sharp as he’s ever been. Owen as expected is playing the ‘Woody Allen’ role but it works wonderfully for one of the most likable Hollywood stars around, and the various actors playing the famous faces, deliver perfectly fascinating caricatures. McAdams is gorgeous, but doesn’t offer up anything various pretty actresses couldn’t have done just as well. Inception’s Marion Cotillard instead delivers a far more enjoyable performance, exuding French sexiness and mystery. Also for an Allen movie the comedy is played a touch too gentle and charming for my taste.
As a long time fan however, I feel so glad to be back in the director’s company, and although I’m sure he could have delivered just as good a movie if he had starred himself, his casting and choice of location won me over, leaving me with a really nice feeling as the credits rolled.
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