Saturday, 7 July 2018
Once again, Woody Allen has (almost) handed out his leading role to another male, taking up his mantle as the neurotic, self-obsessed New York writer, but not quite, as he leaves himself in the cast as well, acting as the latter's mentor and colleague. It's the usual bitter/sweet dark comedy which Allen does so well, enabling this reviewer to laugh out loud often, that becoming a rarity for me. It's a tale of relationships, discontentment, modern values, freedom and the meaningless of existence in time and place in the universe!
Coming from a background of those awful American Pie films, Jason Biggs plays (new Woody) Jerry. He and Dobel, Woody's character, are unsuccessful comedy script writers and hang out in Central Park, chewing the cud and batting about thoughts and philosophy. Jerry is living with Amanda, played by Christina Ricci. How Allen has made the runt-faced acid-drop from the Addams Family films into a hot and sexy little thing, only he knows! And she's a surprisingly good actor, oozing confidence as she did in Ally McBeal. She has to play a neurotic, hypochondriacal, free-spirited, unemployed actress/singer who can't commit fully to the relationship with Jerry. She wants an open relationship but his commitment, denying him sex but getting her own elsewhere. She wants her cake and to eat it.
Jason Biggs does alright and Allen shares the delivery of his repertoire of one-liners with him. He's not riveting or show-stealing, but maybe that was the idea. The leading lady is certainly the star of the show and there are bit parts for others including Danny DeVito as the Agent, who really isn't very funny at all, Stockard Channing who pops up as Paula, Amanda's hippy mum (remember Rizzo in Grease?!) and in keeping with Allen's love of Jazz, Diana Krall tinkles the ivories for us.
Allen plays the buffoon whilst leading the narration but allows Biggs to do the Fourth Wall thing regularly, a technique that I love to see done well, like here. The photography and direction are quite brilliant and I love the rejuvenation of split-screen and the technique which Allen often uses, if it has a name, of leaving the camera shooting an empty room whilst the actors walk off and hold audio dialogue out of shot. It's stylish and interesting.
As usual with Wood Allen stuff, you either love it or hate it and those visiting here with any regularity will know that I fall into the former. There are very few films that I go back to and watch time and again, but there's so much packed into his that it's great value and super entertainment. But your mileage may vary! Highly recommended.
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