Cassandra’s Dream

Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Ian
Colin Farrell as Terry
Sally Hawkins as Kate
Hayley Atwell as Angela Stark
Tom Wilkinson as Howard
Philip Davis as Martin Burns
Ashley Madekwe as Lucy
Andrew Howard as Jerry
Stephen Noonan as Mel
Dan Carter as Fred
John Benfield as Father
Clare Higgins as Mother
Jennifer Higham as Helen
Lee Whitlock as Mike
George Richmond as George Richmond
Phyllis Roberts as Burns’ Mother
Tamzin Outhwaite as Burns’ Date
Cate Fowler as Angela’s Mom
David Horovitch as Angela’s Dad
Tom Fisher as Nigel
Mark Umbers as Eisley

Directed by Woody Allen

(Note: This review originally appeared on the CS Blog as part of our coverage of the Toronto Film Festival.)

Review:
Woody Allen is back in “Match Point” mode for his third film set in England, this one involving two brothers, Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell), who work at their father’s restaurant, but who want more. Their streak of luck hits a downturn, and when they get involved in a murder plot, they finally have a chance to get enough money to pay off their debts and get their heart’s desire.

The brothers’ run of luck begins with the purchase of a boat, dubbed “Cassandra’s Dream,” a plot device that will be completely forgotten until the end of the movie, as will a few other developments which are accidental red herrings that have little to do with the story. Both men eventually are hit with problems that require money–Terry’s gambling and Ian’s sexy but expensive actress girlfriend–convincing them to go to their uncle (Tom Wilkinson) for help. He agrees to give them money if they help him get rid of someone who plans to testify against him in court.

At times, it feels like Allen is coming up with the plot as he goes along, because like in “Match Point,” the story is all over the place and there are way too many unnecessary scenes and developments. Far too much movie time passes in very little real time, so one minute things are going well for the brothers, the next everything’s gone wrong, and then things are fine again. At a certain point, it becomes obvious where things are going, and once it does, the rest of the movie becomes fairly predictable.

There’s just way too many developments and way too much exposition about these developments, so that at least 50% of the dialogue is superfluous. Most of the movie involves people talking either about what they did, what they’re doing or what they plan to do. It’s not like the dialogue is on a par with Allen’s best, because he’s not using his own voice (or accent for that matter). The tone of the movie plays very much like a soap opera or, given the accents, “Woody Allen Does Eastenders.”

Some of the other problems I had with “Match Point” have been resolved by the higher caliber of actor in McGregor and Farrell, who are convincing as the brothers, though it’s not likely that having Farrell playing an alcoholic will help avoid knowing guffaws. Their scenes with Wilkinson as they plot the murder are laughably bad though, because they sound badly half-improvised, and a few lines sound like they were nearly botched. Allen probably should have done another couple takes of these scenes, because their arguments about murdering someone come across so silly that it greatly takes away from any credibility the movie had built up so far.

It’s great that Allen has replaced the canned classical music of “Match Point” with a minimal score from Phillip Glass. It’s not nearly as overpowering as his score for “Notes on a Scandal,” but it’s not nearly as effective at creating any sort of tension or suspense either, and one would think that would be mandatory for a thriller like this. The film’s resolution is the biggest let-down, maybe because the fate of the brothers happens off-screen, much like their victim earlier in the movie, but overall, this is another huge disappointment for the pile from a filmmaker who used to be one of New York’s finest. Hopefully, Allen has finally gotten the UK out of his system with his latest substandard film, and he’ll eventually get back to making the comedies which he does so adeptly.

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