Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Cassandra's Dream - Review by Joseph Wren

Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Running Time: 108 mins
Certificate: 12A
Released: 23 May

The final film in Woody Allen’s London trilogy, Cassandra’s Dream is a dramatic piece about two blue-collar brothers looking for a big payday to clean up their financial troubles, but instead find themselves in a catastrophic mess.

Ewan McGregor plays Ian, who reluctantly helps run the struggling family restaurant while dreaming of California and beautiful women. Brother Terry is played by Colin Farrell, who gets greasy in an auto repair shop when he’s not destroying his life through a horrible gambling and pill addiction. After the brothers buy a boat they can’t really afford, manic Terry starts thinking big, and takes girlfriend Kate (Sally Hawkins) out house-hunting. In an effort to make it work, Terry gets in too deep with loan sharks, and with the aid of Ian, the brothers look to their wealthy Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) for a loan. With problems of his own, Howard hires the boys to whack a high-powered rival.

Cassandra’s Dream is, in its essence, a typical Woody Allen drama. While he may never again reach the dramatic pinnacle of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen continues to explore the themes of guilt and morality, as well as Match Point’s ideas about class struggle. The plot, though very similar to Match Point or Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead, is still engaging and interesting, and succeeds in challenging the audience to ask what they would do in similar circumstances.

It’s a pity that everything else is so creaky. Allen’s quick New Yorker dialogue does not translate so well through the mouths of the British, with some actors seemingly struggling to spit out their lines. Unfortunately, an impatient Woody, notorious for refusing to shoot more than a few takes per scene, decided to keep in a fair share of sloppy deliveries; some characters are nearly referred to by the wrong names at times. Two very different actors, McGregor and Farrell lack the chemistry greatly needed to make the film more powerful, and their supposedly cockney accents are sure to aggravate UK audiences.

A compulsive worker, Woody Allen has averaged making at least one film a year since his directorial career started in 1966. Cassandra’s Dream, Allen’s 38th feature-length film, feels like a film that was more of a burden rather than a joy to make. Whereas Allen’s Oscar-nominated Match Point felt fresh and passionate, he seems to have become quickly bored with London and his cast for this film. Perhaps he was put off by the weather and was looking forward to reuniting with Scarlett Johansson in sunny Spain for his next project Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Woody sure could use a holiday.

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