Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA/Spain, 2010. Mediapro, Versátil Cinema, Gravier Productions, Antena 3 Films, Antena 3 Televisión, Dippermouth. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Produced by Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum. Production Design by Jim Clay. Costume Design by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter. Toronto International Film Festival 2010.
Woody Allen’s heart is light in this forgettable tale of love among modern day Londoners. Naomi Watts is superb as a beleaguered woman whose art history degree has gotten her no further than to work day and night as the assistant to an arrogant gallery owner (a bland Antonio Banderas). Her husband (Josh Brolin) is an American writer who abandoned his medical degree years ago to publish a novel whose success he has since been unable to repeat. Her mother (Gemma Jones) was abandoned by her husband (Anthony Hopkins) during his midlife crisis, and has dealt with it by keeping company with a phony psychic (a delightful Pauline Collins) while he shacks up with a very young prostitute (Lucy Punch) whom he intends to marry. Brolin has begun to spend too much time looking out his window at the beautiful guitarist (Freida Pinto) across the way, while Watts begins to admit that her crush on her boss is becoming unbearable to deal with. This would all be a wonderful set of complications except for one major obstacle: none of it matters in the least. Allen casts a lot of terrific actors in some pretty unmemorable roles, none of them able to lift their characterizations beyond the familiar before the film ends without resolving their various strands and leaves the audience grossly unsatisfied. Jones is marvelously dotty and Punch is viciously funny as the floozy whose performance is hindered only by the fact that her character is a familiar one that has been explored by Allen to much more impressive a degree in many other films (Mighty Aphrodite coming immediately to mind). Brolin, on the other hand, is an unsteady mess, delivering dialogue as if there are cue cards just off screen, coming off phony and plastic. Combining him with Watts is a recipe for disaster: she has a solid quality to her that always convinces you that her character exists well before and after the movies she’s in, but having her spar with Brolin in the film’s lengthy, single-take fight scenes turn out to be like asking Muhammad Ali to get into the ring with a puppy, and it drags her performance down.