The Weinstein Company
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Many filmgoers seem to have given up on Woody Allen, claiming that he’s over the hill and / or in a rut. Others are dismayed that he no longer makes films like the “earlier, funny ones.” Well, filmmakers just like real people, change in their vision, maturity and perspective on life. Lately, The Woodman has been doing variations on a theme of his much-lauded Crimes and Misdemeanors, which certainly applies to his latest outing, Cassandra's Dream.
Unlike other recent films though, he doesn’t focus on a voluptuous younger woman as the central character, and doesn’t have a huge, all-star cast, which can sometimes turn into a game of “spot the celebrity.”
Cassandra's Dream is a bit like mixing a Eugene O’Neill play about a dysfunctional family with a Mike Leigh film, set in working class London, with a touch of Hitchcock irony thrown in to sweeten the pot. Two brothers who are very close pool their savings to buy a boat. Terry is an auto mechanic who gambles a lot, but is generally both knowledgeable and lucky in the pursuit of the fast buck. Ian works in their father’s restaurant, but has visions of grandeur about owning his own resort in California. This desire intensifies when he meets a fetching actress from a low-budget play and falls madly in lust.
The family has always depended on wealthy plastic surgeon Uncle Howard, who now lives and works in Los Angeles, for assistance when in financial need, and Uncle Howard has always come through. Now Uncle Howard is in need, and calls upon the brothers to go above and beyond the call of family.
The brothers are extremely well played by Ewan MacGregor and Colin Farrell. MacGregor has worked his way into stardom through a variety of attention getting roles from Trainspotting to Moulin Rouge. Farrell, on the other hand, has generally come across as irritating in general, or even unbearable in extreme instances. In Cassandra's Dream, Colin Farrell has come into his own via this role and director and offers up a performance that is truly wonderful. Not only can he handle the complexities of being Terry, but he also has the chance, for a change, to be a sympathetic character.
Uncle Howard is the wonderful British thespian Tom Wilkinson, who does more with his brief scenes in this film than he does in his Oscar-nominated turn in Michael Clayton
The rest of the cast is likely to be unknown to most, but all handle their duties capably. The bright, almost cheery, sunlit photography is also not standard for Allen, who usually opts for low-key lighting and mood. The legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does a wonderful job here. And, there is no typical “Woody Allen score,” which generally means 20s jazz tunes, or previously composed materials. The original score is by the enigmatic Phillip Glass, and is magnetic…one of the best film scores heard in ages.
This is a serious, brilliant film with terrific performances. It is Woody Allen’s best film since 1998’s Sweet and Lowdown, and is a must-see for serious film fans.