Cassandra’s Dream

Cassandra’s Dream

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            I think Woody Allen needs to stay in England. His trademark whiny cosmopolitan upper-class neurotics all sound better with an accent; the throw-off self-deprecating humor Allen is known for is something that comes more naturally out of the mouths of Brits than it does out of the twee white Manhattanites that often crawl all over Allen’s films. His new film, “Cassandra’s Dream” is the third film of his in a row to be set in England, and to deal with a murder mystery. I think it’s safe to say he’s entered a new phase in his career.

 

            The first of the British latter-Allen, “Match Point,” (2005) was a very good immorality tale with fantastic performances from Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Allen’s crush Scarlett Johansson. The second, “Scoop,” (2006) was a little too wistful and lightweight, but better than some of his recent comedies (“Curse of the Jade Scorpion?” “Anything Else” anyone?). And now “Cassandra’s Dream,” (2007) while not quite as compelling, and not even quite as deep as “Match Point,” is still a tidy little tragedy made with efficient aplomb and panache by a prolific master.

 

            Ian and Terry (Ewan McGregor and Colin Ferrell) play a pair of brothers, both with money woes. They get by, even able to buy a boat, Cassandra’s Dream, together, but each desires more. Ian wants out of the restaurant business, and longs to invest in Californian hotels, where he can move with his new, vaguely slutty brunette girlfriend (Hayley Atwell). Terry is a grease-monkey with a gambling problem, but is still able to look after his pretty blonde girlfriend (Sally Hawkins). When Terry loses £90,000 in a poker game, the two brothers turn to their wealthy uncle (Tom Wilkinson) for help. Uncle is only too glad to give them the money they need to pay off any debts and move whereer they like… so long as they murder a business partner of his. The usual moral quandaries, half-starts, and best-laid-plans ensue. I won’t reveal what happens, but I will say that the ending comes (somewhat) unexpectedly, and has the ring of a Greek tragedy.

 

            A lot of the film is predictable and expected, despite a few twists here and there. This, however, does not make it a bad film. Indeed, as we the audience see the inevitable events rushing at us, while none of the characters do, it only adds to the tragic sightlessness of the two brothers. We, like Cassandra, can see the future, but are unable to communicate it to the characters. Allen seems to be playing with the relationship between the viewer and the characters a bit. Not to the degree of, say, Ingmar Bergman or Luis Buñuel, but there’s still a little play.

 

            Most of all, the film is, as I said, efficient. Allen knows what he’s doing with this one, and lets it flow easily out of him. Certainly he could have wrung a bit more out of a story like this, but, as it stands, it’s done very well.

             More points for Allen for sticking with it after all these years. He’s one of the most prolific filmmakers working today, having made nearly one film a year for about twenty years. He’s 75 years old. By all mean, Mr. Allen, do continue.

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Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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