Scoop (2006) Apr 16, 2018 21:55:55 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Apr 16, 2018 21:55:55 GMT -5
Directed by: Woody Allen
Directed by: Woody Allen
Scarlett Johansson in Scoop.
NOTE: Part of "Woody Allen Mondays," an ongoing movie-watching event.
Woody Allen's Scoop focuses on two characters, an illusionist named Splendini (played by Allen himself), who specializes in performing second-rate trickery before spotty audiences in London, and Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson), a meek student journalist. The two cross paths when Sondra is the lucky audience member in one of Splendini's acts selected for a turn in his special plywood box where he claims her molecules will be arranged upon reciting a few magic words. During her brief time in the box, Sondra is greeted by Joe Strombel (Ian McShane), a late reporter who informs her that evident suggests public figure Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), the son of Lord Lyman, is the notorious Tarot Card Killer, a serial killer who has been killing prostitutes for quite some time. Strombel returns with hopes he can contact a prominent reporter, but instead settles for this stumblebum beat reporter who gets swept up in her own ideas that she has a hard time focusing. Splendini agrees to go along with Sondra when she decides to get close to the junior Lyman, complying with pretending to be her father while she tries to be the investigative journalist she's always dreamed of being.
Scoop is a cruel miss for Woody Allen and all involved. It's a relentlessly frustrating sit that combines the worst tendencies of newspaper capers and the mid-2000's mystery-side of Allen that felt woefully misguided then and even more-so now. To be fair, there are echoes of some great Allen comedy within that can be tunneled out if closely examined. The retroactive side of Allen surfaces in tone as opposed to set-decoration akin to The Curse of the Jade Scorpion without the uncomfortable laughs and pleasantly screwball premise, and the faintest whiffs of Manhattan Murder Mystery, one of Allen's best, surfaces when the characters expound upon their preconceived beliefs that Jackman's Lyman is the guilty party. But these are only red herrings in a film that is frustratingly flaccid in its comic zest and annoyingly slight in its ability to emphasize this otherwise incoherent mystery that begins clumsy and never regains its footing.
The characters in Scoop ostensibly speak in an endless loop of exposition, assumptions about a murder case they know nothing about, and petty contrivances disguised as substance. One of the running gags is a lame bit involving Splendini overwhelmed by Sondra's inquisitive ways and the fact he has to impersonate her father by literally following her around for no reason despite the plot's demands. Sondra's romance with Lyman also feels hopelessly boring because Johansson proves too uncharacteristic of an Allen leading lady (think of the strong voices of Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, and Judy Davis). She's too vulnerable, timid, and the turgid narrative of comedy, drama, mystery, and murder buries Johansson's naturally charismatic presence under the weight of an often unbearable picture.
As I've stated before, you'll never find a more divisive period in Allen's filmography than the 2000's. It began humbly with the marginally embraced Small Time Crooks but quickly saw some serious misfires in the form of the playful but grating Melinda and Melinda, the well-received but personally underwhelming Match Point, this dreaded miscalculation, and Cassandra's Dream, which remains one of Allen's most different ventures. Released in 2006, Scoop accurately captures the period of Allen being stuck in the middle, turn between the desire to toy with formula and stick to his nebbish comic sensibilities. This is the first time I've ever wanted to shut a film of his off, for his character and his direction were both so disappointing, it would've been best for everyone if we had just proceeded on, even if his next work (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) would prove lukewarm as well — nonetheless watchable.
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Woody Allen, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McShane. Directed by: Woody Allen.