29 July 2013 | madbeast
Good...but not THAT good
One of the better movies Woody Allen has put out in recent years, featuring superior performances by Cate Blanchett as an emotionally unstable woman forced to come down from her privileged past and Sally Hawkins as her enabling lower-income sister. Allen's screenplay is often amusing although it meanders at times (I looked at my watch more than once during the screening I attended) and its story seems uncomfortably reminiscent of "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Blanchett in the Blanche DuBois role, Sally Hawkins as Stella, Peter Sarsgaard as Mitch and Bobby Cannavale as Stanley Kowalski. It lacks the dramatic power and sexual tension of Tennessee Williams' masterpiece and in the end, Allen's urbane sophistication doesn't make up for it.
There is a tendency in recent years to either over-praise Allen or rip him to shreds. I don't think this film deserves either fate, being an enjoyably diverting if occasionally pretentious and derivative comedy/drama. It may not belong in the pantheon of great Woody Allen movies like "Annie Hall" or "Manhattan" but it's no "Curse of the Jade Scorpion" or "Celebrity" either. If it didn't have the Woody Allen brand on it, I suspect that it would quickly come and go without notice as a fairly well-made independent drama with some nice acting that has some gripping sequences while ultimately being a little on the dull side. Because of Allen's enduring reputation, it will probably pick up an Oscar nomination or two (for Blanchett's performance and for Allen's questionably "original" screenplay) because Allen's name still carries cache with the taste arbiters. It had too many dull stretches and redundant exchanges for that kind of attention for my money, but its high points made me feel like there were worse ways to spend an hour and a half.