Woody Allen, UK USA Luxembourg 2005
what i thought was a romantic comedy turned out to be something much more elegant, tragic, and filled with life. and also finally sees Woody, after so many fruitless years, strike good old dramatic gold again. i don't have a clue what the difference in execution is between this and, say, Melinda and Melinda. all i know is that the latter was trying too hard to be a Woody Allen movie without all the usual suspects (again, maybe that was the point but it didn't work for me). but this one, although it does rethread some of Woody's familiar themes of infidelity and love, also feels fresh. Woody's script is in fine form, lean and precise. and the execution? a spectacular lead performance from Jonathan Rhys Meyers. although still quiet and reserved, Woody and Jonathan made sure that Chris Wilton was a full-fledged character and not just some pouty performance - which was fun to see from such a brooding performer (from what i've seen). Jonathan creates a charming, funny, formal character that is just getting his feet wet in an unfamiliar environment. the brooding is used to complement the twists and turns in Woody story but you never feel he falls back on it. by the way, the arc these characters take (over at least a year) are tremendous and very palpable. it's these tiny touches that make Woody such an interesting director to follow. Chris's growing ease within the family, while still clinging to that last piece of intimacy, was one of many interesting details i took away from Jonathan's performance. Scarlett Johansson started out bugging me by giving nothing in her first couple of scenes and pretending it was sexy (i don't care for it when she does this) so i thought, alright, here we go again. i was about to write her off when she began to open up and light the fucking screen. her and Jonathan were a brilliant match (seriously, no pun) to carry this film. (alright! she's in the next Woody Allen film as well:) as i said, Woody's film, although not single-minded at all, is a lean one, so there's not a whole lot left to talk about without revealing the plot. of course there's some other stuff happening (i could point to my glee at seeing Ewen Bremner again) but the rest is all Woody's fine dialogue working like a charm again. as is pointed out in the film (set in beautiful/moody London), the piece works like an opera. it's a cheerfully sweet Woody Allen movie but with a thornier, more dramatic reality about love and passion. although it is dealt with in a moodier manner than usual, the film is never depressing. everything's kept afloat by Woody's fine observations on the human character. watching the film, i also got a strong sense that Woody was finally in a good place in his life. he's seen his share of darkness, and failed attempts at successful moviemaking, but he doesn't seem bitter about it (or crippled by it) anymore. he is finally able to take a clean, clear look at it from the other side. and that is what makes up the most entertaining Woody Allen films.
ps. after being on the fence about him for so many years (uneven wooden performances don't help), i think it is needless to say that, with this film, i am now sold on Jonathan Rhys Meyers. here's a cool interview with him from the June 2006 Premiere magazine.
Posted by Sam | 9:19 AM