and girls, MG here. I'm thrilled to submit for your delectation and
utter delight, the first film review of 2008 by our preternaturally
fabulous correspondent, Miss Dollie Banner. Her gifts to the shrine
bless us with their awesomeness. Dig up, babies.
Admission # 1: I'm a big Woody Allen fan, but shamefully haven't seen
any of his films since 1996 ode to movie musicals, "Everyone Says I Love
You". No excuses really, I just kept missing one after the other. When
even the delightful visage of Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Match Point wasn't
enough to sway me, Allen must have thought, "What will bring Dollie back
into the fold? What if I cast Ewan McGregor in 'Cassandra's Dream'?"
Admission #2: I could watch Ewan McGregor just sleep for 2 hours, so
spot on, Woody, you know me so well. I just wish the collaboration
lived up to my expectations.
Allen's 36th feature film as writer-director is a morality tale about
the efforts of two brothers to enhance their lower middle class lives.
McGregor stars as Ian, a charmer pretending to live above his station to
impress his new lady, actress Angela (newcomer Hayley Atwell). His
brother Terry (Colin Farrell) is more content with his lot. He's a got
a great girl, Kate (Sally Hawkins "Vera Drake") in his corner and
a steady mechanic job, but struggles with a gambling compulsion.
The film takes its name from a modest sailboat the brothers
purchase during one of Terry's hot streaks, christening it with the
moniker of the dog that came in for him. When Terry's luck heads south,
the boys hit up their well-off Uncle Howard, a suitably skeevy Tom
Wilkinson, who demands they earn their rewards with the ultimate show of
Despite my rustiness, it became quickly apparent (after the requisite
Windsor font white on black credits) that Cassandra's Dream was not a
typical Woody Allen picture. No Manhattan, London, England is again the
location for his third consecutive film. No upbeat jazz, instead Philip
Glass has composed a restrained but effectively intense score. No lush
cinematography, director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond has drained the
film of saturated colors achieving a pallid and dreary atmosphere. Allen
forgoes the posh locales and zippy dialogue that usually earmark his
films in favor of his own brand of realism. These characters yearn for,
yet never quite achieve the sumptuous charm that flows so effortlessly
in Allen's previous films. Unfortunately, Allen suffers the same fate,
never fully realizing his vision for "Cassandra's Dream". In opting for
grit over style, Allen forgot to include the heart, or for this film the
guts, ultimately fashioning a bland film that is more surface than
The cast does its best with a weak script. Colin Farrell makes
a credible working class guy whose moral struggle is both believable and
empathetic. McGregor is saddled with the more difficult role, and though
I love him I'll admit his performance is not wholly successful. He
portrays Ian's falseness so completely that his character feels
inauthentic. Even so, McGregor remains a compelling and likable screen
presence. Atwill acquits herself well for her first film, but her
limited story line doesn't amount to much more than pretty stage
dressing. I was more impressed with Hawkins in one of those
unsophisticated roles like Mia Farrow in "Broadway Danny Rose" and Mira
Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite" that sometimes pop up in Allen's films.
Perhaps it's the contrast from her recent lead performance in
Masterpiece Theatre's "Persuasion," but Hawkins stood out as the one
cast member who was able to cull real depth and warmth from the script.
Disappointing as my re-acquaintance with Woody Allen turned out to
be, I have to give credit to any 71-year-old with nearly four decades of
films behind him to attempt new styles and stories. Hopefully, the next
one I get out to will be a bit more satisfying. So Woody, what do you
think of Ryan Gosling?
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