Monday, July 31, 2006

Movie / Scoop

"Scoop" (2006)
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Scarlett Johannsen, Hugh Jackman

A fun, light comedy / murder mystery, with a bit of a supernatural element. Not as tightly written and directed as Match Point, last year's well-received Allen film drama. However it is arguably a sequel, which reuses some of the stars of Match Point, and sets things right. This time a murderous aristocrat is caught and brought to justice, by a sweet young thing.

Splendini (Allen), a mediocre American stage magician meets Sondra Pransky (Johannsen) a young American journalism student in London, when she volunteers for one of his magic tricks. Inside the box, Sondra meets the ghost of a recently deceased reporter who gives her the scoop of a lifetime, that an aristocrat has possibly murdered someone. Sondra and Splendini then endeavor to penetrate the inner circle of this rich man, passing themselves off as wealthy Americans under assumed names, with him as her aging father. And she and the handsome young man fall in love.

Allen (now 70) delivers a nice rendition of Being There by acting totally self confident and a total klutz at the same time, and getting away with it. Johannsen (the new, new leading lady?) plays nicely against him, as someone her own age, a cute, clueless college student with glasses.

Unlike some reviewers, I was not blown away by the comedy, and there are definitely some continuity problems. But there are many nice moments to like, and I am considering going back to see it again. Had Allen not insisted on being a one-man band, and brought in a younger collaborator, the writing, continuity, and comedy could have been improved, likely yielding a timeless classic.

PG-13. Sexual situations and threats of violence.

During the the pre-release PR for Scoop, Allen gave some interviews, one of which I read in the Washington Post. I was startled to learn that it's not merely a comedic device that he thinks life is futile and is obsessed with death -- that's his true personality! So for example in Annie Hall when he gives Annie (Diane Keaton) books about death, which cause her to leave him and move to Beverly Hills, this is no joke. He really would do that.

Starting out as a kid in Brooklyn writing one-liners for others, he rapidly became big enough to control his own creative destiny. So far he has created 37 films, more than anyone but Charlie Chaplin. And he does them, one a year, to keep from thinking about the futility of life and the inevitability of death.

Frankly I think he needs to get out of Brooklyn, while there's still time, stop worrying about his Jewish heritage, and move to San Francisco (LA is too vacuous). That would get him to lighten up.

One week later. In the WaPo interview Allen laments that now he has reached age 70 he can no longer pick up 22 year old women and plan a future with them. "All that is lost to me." This seems bizarre given that he is married to Soon-Yi (his former adopted daughter with Mia Farrow) who must be in her 30s. Why does he still want to pick up 22 year olds, or feel that life with a younger woman is lost to him? Perhaps the view (of Farrow et al) that he is some kind of moral degenerate is correct.

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