DIR/WRI: Woody Allen • PRO: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley • DOP: Vilmos Zsigmond • ED: Alisa Lepselter • DES: Maria Djurkovic • CAST: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, Sally Hawkins, Hayley Atwell
In Woody Allen’s most recent film, Cassandra’s Dream, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell play two working-class London brothers. McGregor is Ian, the smart one, who works in their father’s restaurant while dreaming of a better life, and Farrell is Terry, a former potential sports star, who now works in a garage and is addicted to gambling. When Ian’s relationship with an actress (played by Hayley Atwell) brings his ambitions up a notch, and Terry’s gambling leaves him in serious debt, they go to their well-to-do Uncle Howard (played by Tom Wilkinson) to, effectively, beg for money. Uncle Howard is perfectly willing to help, on the condition that they kill a man whose testimony could put him in prison.
It’s very unlike a typical Woody Allen film, so I don’t know if it can be judged fairly in those terms. If you’re a fan you might be left longing for, say, some more overlapping dialogue, or a joke about sex or psychoanalysis or, ideally, both, though in this film these things might be distracting. (In fact, there is one scene involving an actress nervously lighting a cigarette while talking about how neurotic and self-absorbed she is, and it feels a little out of place.) If you’re a fan, you may worry for Woody’s wellbeing, given his fascination with killing people, but it’s not an entirely new preoccupation, and there’s been a certain amount of despair in many of his films – it’s just usually accompanied by comedy.
Leaving Woody aside, it’s a pretty decent thriller, with plenty of tension. The film is well made, with some good scenes, as in the one where their uncle makes his request, or another in their proposed victim’s house. There’s a lot of exposition early on, so it’s a bit slow to get going, and there are some moments that are surprisingly clunky and awkward. It’s also a bit bleak, and has been compared to Match Point for its murderous dilemma. It’s livelier than Match Point though, with less of an overt thematic point, which could be seen as a good or a bad thing. It’s more of a crime-tragedy by way of James M. Cain than a philosophical tract.
The acting is good, with McGregor conflicted but holding it together and Farrell anxious and increasingly unhinged. The accents aren’t too bad, although McGregor sometimes sounds a bit like Frank Spencer. Tom Wilkinson is as good as always, and Sally Hawkins, as Farrell’s girlfriend, gives probably the most natural performance in the film.
It’s good to see a filmmaker trying something different(-ish) into his seventies, and if this wasn’t a Woody Allen film, it might have been better received. Although I’m pretty sure people would still have a problem with the dialogue.