Time just seemed to run away with me yesterday which is why my regular Friday blog has managed to emerge on a Saturday morning and also why this review may well be shorter than usual -- since there are other things I usually try to do on a Saturday morning. That's the problem with being a creature of habit or wantonly seeking an orderly life.
However I could not let the opportunity pass without reviewing the latest Woody Allen movie. I've said it before and I'll say it again that despite his mounting chorus of critics, each new release manages to deepen my affection for this filmmaker. His 50th film is on the horizon and that will be an occasion well worth celebrating. The reviews for this movie have been lukewarm at best and no this is not another instance of an Allen clone attracting a much younger love interest -- thank you very much Mrs Muir. Set firmly in the l930s, the action is split between the Hollywood scene (with its many allusions to enchant any movie buff) and New York's would-be glittering night life, both beautifully designed, costumed, and photographed. The Allen film it most reminded me of is "Radio Days" (1987) but without its joy.
On so many levels this is an old man's movie full of regrets: lost love, the superficiality of existence, and the numbering of our days. Allen is now 81 years old and is allowed to wallow in rose-tinted nostalgia. as far as I'm concerned. For the second time in recent years Jesse Eisenberg is given the 'young Woody' role, but there is no attempt to mimic any mannerisms; his performance is nearly likeable and restrained. The revelation is Kristen Stewart -- miles away from her goth-y Twilight days -- playing his first love who opts for the glamour and security of her older lover, Steve Carell, a hot-shot Tinseltown agent and Eisenberg's uncle. Her performance is simple and unforced and she looks a dream in her little bobby-sox. As usual Allen rounds out his cast with a starry but well-considered ensemble: Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott as Eisenberg's parents (but do tell me how a Scots character actor came to portray a Yiddishe failure), Carey Stoll as his gangster brother (one is so used to seeing him totally bald, so why in the world was he given the world's worst wig to wear?), Sari Lennick out of "A Serious Man" as his sister, the ever-reliable Parker Posey as a mentor, and Blake Lively as his eventual gorgeous but not deeply-loved wife.
Allen's own scene-setting voiceover is perhaps unnecessary and at times its shakiness makes him sound less like the Woody of days long past; however as always his selection of music channelling the hits of the period is spot-on and a real pleasure. I for one look forward to his next movie and the one after and so on, 'til death do us part.