7 March 2004 | bob the moo
Allen fails to really inject any spark into a rather unsympathetic tale
Alice is a happily married, upper-east side NY mother who has children, a maid, a babysitter and so on. She never thought she was unhappy until she meets a man at her children's school and begins thinking about having an affair with him. She goes to an herbal doctor, Dr Yang, who gives her herbs that, in a variety of ways, help her in her voyage of self-discovery.
I'm a keen fan of Woody Allen but hopefully not to the point where I can't call a dog a dog! This film is not a dog, but it is certainly very lifeless and dull, despite the imaginative plot device of Dr Yang's herbs. For one thing it is very difficult indeed to really care for Alice or her friends. Usually Allen manages to get over this by making them witty, deeper characters of just having his film move slickly. Here he can't get the pace up nor does he manage to give Alice anything resembling a real problem - unless you live the self-obsessed type of life she lives, in which case you may disagree. I struggled to really get into the story and it was only made harder by the fact that, although imaginative, the film wasn't really that funny.
The dialogue lacked the sort of imaginative sparkle that Allen films can usually be relied upon to have and it seemed to rely more on character than anything - which was a mistake as they are a fairly unsympathetic lot with more money than problems. Farrow tries her best to win the audience round but I never got more from Alice than a woman going through a midlife crisis of sorts. Mantegna and Hurt are both good actors but here they have nothing really to do and appear hamstrung by their characters. The only time I connected with Alice was when she danced with the ghost of her husband and we hear flashbacks to their marriage - at this point I saw a person. This is mostly due to a good performance by Baldwin in a minor role.
Overall this is typical Allen and I guess fans may love it for that. For me, I really didn't feel the film had any life to it and that it came across as flat and listless. The plot relies on characters who I couldn't either relate to or like, the dialogue isn't as funny as it should be even though the invisibility etc all make it seem more interesting. It's an OK film but I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the whole thing.