Writer/director Woody Allen went through a 40 year apprenticeship before
he finally got it right. He had some movies I liked, like Annie Hall,
but for me he was moviedomís answer to Ernest Hemingway in that his
mystique was his life and potential, but his work didnít measure up. It
seemed as if I always looked forward to his movies but generally came
However, a few years ago when he moved his locations to Europe, he
seemed to bloom, producing one entertaining movie after another. He just
seems to get better and better.
one finds him returned from his European setting, relocated in San
Francisco, with a story of a dysfunctional Cate Blanchett who finds her
life turned topsy-turvy when her husband, Alec Baldwin, gets indicted
and goes to jail.
Typically Allen, itís a light-hearted, comedic look at serious problems
as Blanchett goes to live with her sister, Sally Hawkins, at whom she
looks down her nose after living the high life in The Hamptons with
Alec. Blanchett is reflective and the movie shows her two lives, the one
with Baldwin in constant flashbacks. Sally is just barely making ends
meet and has a boyfriend, Bobby Cannavale, for whom Cate has even less
respect than she does for Sally.
film immediately brings to mind corrupt New York financial manager,
Bernie Madoff, and his wife, but Allen denies that this is anything
approaching a roman a clef. Rather, itís a commentary on choices
and living with those choices. Blanchett is blind-sided by what happens
to her and we see her as she has a difficult time coping with her rapid
knows how to get terrific performances out of his A-list cast, who
generally work for him for scale. Blanchett and Baldwin are joined by
Peter Sarsgaard and Andrew Dice Clay (in a brilliant bit of casting
against type), who plays Sallyís husband, and rises above all the
others. Clay, who made a reputation as a rough, foul-mouthed standup
comedian was floored when he was approached for the role, but he gives a
terrific, sensitive performance, which is a telling commentary on
Allenís judgment and talent as a director, even though he has the
reputation of just letting everyone do their own thing. Heís been
responsible for at least four acting Academy Awards for his actors, so
he must have some influence on them.
Hawkins gets the biggest role of her career and makes the most of it.
She takes this part and makes it her own. While Blanchett gives an
award-quality performance, the screen really lights up when Hawkins
appears. There are so many good performances in this film that it
doesnít seem fair to single out one over the other. Cannavale also gives
an exceptional performance, as do Sarsgaard and Louis C.K., who hits on
Sally near the end of the film.
dialogue is as good as any Allen has written, and recently heís written
some very good scripts. The music is nothing short of fantastic. There
is no credit for score or music supervisor. I contacted the production
company to find out who was responsible for the music. The answer came
back that there is no music credit. All I can figure is that Woody
picked it and just didnít give himself a credit. Whatever the reason,
the music is a big part of the enjoyableness of the film.
this wonít be the huge hit that Midnight in Paris was, but it is
one of Allenís best.