A middle-aged man is having a secret affair with a much younger woman. A young man moves from New York to Hollywood, hoping to make his fortune. It’s Los Angeles in the 1930s. You might need sunglasses.
If you’re hoping Woody Allen has one more original tale in him, abandon that hope. Stunning sets, beautiful costumes and cars all offer visual treats.
Moments remind you of quite how great Woody used to be. The New York family and nightclub scenes feature some sharp writing and performances. Studio scenes and parties pull the viewer in. And, as always, Woody gets a very talented group of actors together.
Jesse Eisenberg is Bobby, who goes to work for his uncle Phil, played by Steve Carell. Kristen Stewart wears beautiful clothes and has some great lines, but she suffers from the rather cartoonish quality given to women in Woody movies. I long for someone of the strength of Annie Hall.
Bobby’s parents have some of the funniest lines and Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott have real warmth and style. Cory Stoll is very entertaining as Bobby’s brother Ben and Blake Lively, again, has a half-formed person to act as.
Sheryl Lee’s character disappears partway through, never to be heard of again. This is irritating as she does engage my emotions.
And that’s the real trouble. I never really care about what is going to happen to any of these people. It all feels sombre and even the laughs are of the rueful type.
The Stratford East Picturehouse was full and we enjoyed it. But it is shallow stuff. Maybe Woody should live as a poor man in New York City for a bit and see if that inspires him to tell stories that matter.
Go see it if you have to see everything Woody does and if you love the look and feel of 1930s luxury.