By Susan G. Cole, NOW/vol 30 no 5
Woody Allen may have personal flaws, but you have to give him credit – they seem to fuel his best work. Nobody knows human motivation like he does.
“Be careful what you wish for” is the message in his latest sly entry, which tracks the desires and anxieties of people who go the distance – and a bit too far – to chase their dreams.
When Helena (Gemma Jones) gets dumped by Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), her daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) sends her to a seer she knows is a charlatan. Sally, in the meantime, starts working for hot gallery owner Greg (Antonio Banderas) to help pay the bills, because hubby and failing writer Roy (Josh Brolin) – who’s busy spying on the girl next door (Freida Pinto) – can’t.
The ensemble is terrific, especially Hopkins as the pathetic Viagra addict and Lucy Punch as the gold-digging hooker he hopes will rejuvenate him. And as the kind of character Allen used to play, Brolin – schlubby, hooked on the girl he should theoretically never have a chance with and terribly weak – is hilarious.
But it’s Watts who shows real emotional depth. You’d think that wouldn’t work in a comic piece like this, but Allen has always said that his films are funniest when the actors don’t play up the comedy. Watts has that strategy down.
*The NOW's remark is by coincidence resonated by David Lamble in his review of the film as per excerpt below:
"The highest marks go to Naomi Watts, whose frustrated writer's wife best exemplifies Allen's credo that his characters are doomed regardless of their actions; ..." Midlife machinations/by David Lamble /09/30/2010