January 19, 2008

REVIEW: Cassandra's Dream (C+)

Background: It appears as if writer/director Woody Allen (Annie Hall) at some point became bored with quirky comedies. His third London-based film in a row, Cassandra's Dream, is another crime thriller in the vein and style of 2005's Match Point. This version stars Scotsman Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish), Irishman Colin Farrell (Miami Vice, The New World), and Englishman Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton). If it's not obvious while you're watching, the original score is done by violinophile Philip Glass (Notes on a Scandal).

Synopsis: Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell) Blaine are brothers in working-class London. Ian is hoping a risky hotel investment will allow him to leave his work in their father's restaurant; Terry is a jittery auto mechanic with a drinking and gambling problem. Though neither brother has any money, they for some reason decide to buy a boat - perhaps just to underscore their poor decision making. The brothers decide to ask their rich uncle Howard (Wilkinson) for financial help, who in turn asks them to kill a former associate who has incriminating information about Howard's business dealings. The hit is in trouble from the start as the brothers fumble through plans and motives before finally deciding to do the job. Afterwards, Terry is wracked with guilt to the point where he is considering turning himself in. Howard and Ian, of course, decide their only option is to kill Terry before he brings them down. Oh, and Ian also has a steamy relationship with an actress that is totally wasted and adds nothing to the story.

I Loved:
+ Colin Farrell, for the first time. It makes you wonder why he considers roles like Phone Booth and Miami Vice. Stick with an accent and role that you can actually do well.

I Liked:
+ The uncomfortable walking/running/hunting scene through the streets of London.

I Disliked:
- Ewan McGregor. It wasn't so much a bad performance, just a limiting role. He couldn't really show any depth.
- The awkward turning-point scene in the rain, which changed gears way too quickly.

I Hated:
- The last 20 minutes or so. Colin Farrell is depressed, blah blah blah, predictable and totally unsatisfying ending.

Writing - 7
Acting - 9
Production - 8
Emotional Impact - 7
Music - 5
Significance - 3

Total: 39/50= 78% = C+

Last Word: I really liked Match Point, though I have seen it just the one time in the theater. Clearly, my hopes for another gripping thriller were dashed with Cassandra's Dream. I think the main problem is that the story seems like it was written by an amateur, not a multiple Oscar winner and nominee. The characters are shallow and kind of boring, and the most suspenseful parts are on par with network TV shows, in that they're not very suspenseful. Colin Farrell's best performance to date is wasted here, and Ewan McGregor is handcuffed inside a jerk of a character. It certainly doesn't help Allen that last year's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead tells a similar story in a much better movie. It seems Allen, who writes great character dialogue, just got lucky with Match Point. So much the better, I guess - he has his own niche, so why try to do something else? I'll expect he's back in form with his next film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, starring - surprise, surprise, Scarlett Johansson.


  1. Though quirky comedies are clearly his niche, it should be noted that he has made a few great serious dramas, a list that doesn't include the overrated Match Point or this dreadful piece of trash. Check out Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters, and to a lesser degree on the dramatic scale, Sweet and Lowdown and Purple Rose of Cairo. I wouldn't call any of those four movies comedies.


  2. I guess you're right, though I've embarrassingly, inexcusably only seen Sweet and Lowdown out of those four.

  3. This might just be the worst Woody Allen film I've never seen. His stabs at Dostoevskian drama are, in a word, pathetic, merely repeating the same 'how do people justify doing bad things' trope that he hit 20 years ago with Crimes and Misdemeanors, without much depth or complexity. It's a tedious, predictable film and the direction and performances are lazy and stiff. I can't stand movies where the actors are obviously just waiting for their turn to deliver their line, as happens here.

  4. Still highly anticipating this. But, sadly, I don't think it's ever going to arrive.

    If it doesn't, it will be the very first Woody Allen movie that didn't play in my city in 35 YEARS. (Yes, I checked.)

    We do love our Woodman on the West Coast. But if it misses my bustling metropolis, c'est la vie.

  5. It doesn't seem like it's getting many screenings, Miranda, but if you do get a chance, I actually think you might enjoy it. The good parts of it (basically Colin Farrell) work pretty well, and you might like its edginess. Who knows. You're much more well-viewed in Woody than me, so I won't pretend like I know what I'm talking about!


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