' ' Cinema Romantico: Scoop

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I’m a sucker for Woody Allen, no matter what he does. It all became clear to me while watching his latest comedic venture “Scoop”. It starts out with Scarlett Johansson as a college student who wants to be an investigative reporter living in London with some well-to-do British family. And there’s also a deceased reporter named Joe Strombell (who’s apparently on a boat to hell) who comes into possession of some clues about the recent “Tarot Card Killer”. But how can he get the scoop when he’s dead? Return from the dead, that’s how. And then Scarlett Johansson and her British friend are off to see a magic show starring the great Splendini. I mean, the great Splendini? Really? And I’m sitting in there in the theater, bored out of my mind, on the verge of falling asleep. Falling asleep at a Woody Allen movie! I don’t think I can keep my eyes open……

But then the great Splendini runs on the stage. And it’s Allen himself. And he has this big goofy smile on his face. And it’s making me laugh – I mean, laugh really, really hard. It’s one of the funniest smiles I’ve ever seen. And suddenly I’m pulled back in. Granted, if you don’t like Woody Allen, you probably don’t get pulled. You either roll with him or you don’t. And I did. I always do somehow.

The Woody we all know and some of us love is very much present. He’s kvetching, and nervous, and constantly talking with his hands, and delivering one-liners up the wazoo. (My favorite: “My anxiety acts as aerobics.”) The threadbare plot hangs on Woody posing as Scarlett Johansson’s oil baron father (“I’d love to work more on my magic but I don’t have the time – what, with my oil wells”) as they do their best to investigate the possibility that Hugh Jackman’s British socialite is, in fact, the Tarot Card Killer.

What does it say about an auteur who gives himself all the good lines? Scarlett Johansson has little to do, and Jackman has even less. The plot is kind of crudely constructed and the device of the reporter returning from the dead every now and then to offer clues is the device of a horrendously lazy screenwriter. Essentially the movie is just a rehash of Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” from the early 90’s. But whereas “Manhattan Murder Mystery” was very charming and very funny and very elegant, “Scoop” is a little charming, sort of funny, and not really that elegant at all.

It’s also a signal that Woody may be running out of ideas. People used to harp on him back in the 80’s for not making funny movies and getting too serious. Lately though he’s only been making funny movies (“Match Point” being the exception). But oh what I’d give for him to attempt another “Purple Rose of Cairo” or “Interiors” – anything audacious, even if it fails miserably.

But “Scoop” still works. At least, if you’re a hardcore fan of the filmmaker. When Woody is describing a red sweater to a woman by flailing his hands and babbling dozens and dozens of adjectives to describe a simple sweater, the woman finally declares “I understand, sir. Red.” That’s funny stuff, damn it. And I just don’t care if anyone else doesn’t agree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My seasonal Thursday afternoon "Starship Troopers" Quote.

Many people say, Tobius F., what's your favorite part of "Starship Troopers." And, no, it's not the shower scene, if that's what you're thinking. It's this wonderful little exchange right here -

"I was wondering, what would you do if you were me?"

"Figuring things out for yourself is the only real freedom anyone really has. Use that freedom. Make up your own mind."