A good critic never spoils the movies
Woody Allen is at it again, writing and directing a subtly humorous romantic comedy, but this time it’s in England. Surrounding himself with two of huge stars, Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, the movie was destined to be a hot ticket. Or was it? Fans of Allen’s work lamented that this film doesn’t take place in New York, as most of his work does. Critics ranted about how Allen himself had lost his comic touch and that he only nervously paces across the screen as a tribute to his famous neurotic characters.
The main plot line is that there have been a string of murders in London and the police haven’t identified the killer but they have nicknamed him “the tarot card killer” because of his unique MO. Johansson’s character, Sondra, is a keen journalist looking for her big break and it comes when she is attending a magic show, hosted by Allen’s character, Sid. Sondra volunteers to be a stage assistant for Sid’s disappearing trick and while in the magic disappearing box a specter of a dead investigative reporter outlines who the tarot card killer is. Using this lead and some help from Sid, Sondra attempts to track down the killer. Eventually, she lands in the lap of Peter, Jackman’s character, who seems to be entangled in the murders too. As the investigation progresses, tensions between the trio force Sondra to chose who she is going to hurt when she publishes her story and who she will stick by afterwards.
Like every other Woody Allen movie, the film is rather minimalist, but in the new city of London everything seems fresh and alive. Allen may have been phoning this one in to avid fans but it’s interesting to watch and it’s well put together, though the formula is simple. Don’t expect much in the way of plot twists or hard thinking for this movie, it’s a romantic comedy after all.
The acting is all over the chart, Jackman was good as a snooty british aristocrat, Johansson was trying hard to be the plucky young journalist but ended up being a Jekyll and Hyde between an airheaded teenager and a sultry vixen, and Allen played himself yet again, the neurotic, though outgoing, magician. Much of Johansson’s part in this film was to play the deadpan to Woody’s nervousness, but she’s far too emotive to do so. It always seemed like she was playing a caricature of someone trying to deadpan a line, she threw in a wry smile, a near laugh or a lip bite which broke the scene. Otherwise, the acting was great and there was great chemistry between Johansson and Jackman.
I didn’t know that the supernatural was going to play such a large role in the plot development, but it was a welcome twist from Woody’s usual fare. Overall, this movie is a 6/10 or a three out of five stars because it is a plain and simple story told in an average way. Though there were some annoyances throughout the film, it was not the fluff that I had expected from Allen. It’s a decent romantic comedy and with it’s few twists and turns is worth viewing.