Hailed as Woody Allen's best film in a decade which sets a very low bar and as a new direction in his work which appears to boil down to the fact that it's set in London instead of New York this thin chronicle of bad behavior among the rich and self-obsessed is painfully derivative, borrowing wholesale from Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and echoing Allen's own CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989). Affable second-string tennis pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) knows there's no future for him in the game but can't figure out what to do instead when a string of lucky breaks conspire to change his life. Befriended by a private student, wealthy Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), Chris' impeccable manners and affable nature quickly win over the entire Hewett clan, even prickly matriarch Eleanor (Penelope Wilton). Tom's sprightly sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), falls in love with him, and her father, international businessman Alec (Brian Cox), offers his future son-in-law a position at one of his companies. Everything would be perfect were it not for Tom's American fiancee, aspiring actress Nola (Scarlett Johansson), a sexpot who drinks too much and flirts compulsively. She and Chris embark on an impulsive affair, but luck steps in again: Tom breaks off the engagement and Nola vanishes. With temptation safely out of the way, Chris gets back on track: He and Chloe buy a spectacular apartment, Chris rises steadily at work and Alec hints that there's no limit to how far he can go. The only sour note is Chloe's obsession with becoming pregnant, which turns their sex life into a regimented chore. And then Chris bumps into Nola at a museum. They rekindle their reckless relationship, and when Nola becomes pregnant, Chris faces the prospect of losing everything. As is true in the bulk of Allen's films starting in the 1990s and later, the story is rudimentary and the characters drawn so broadly that even actors capable of better are reduced to shrill, one-note performances. The London locations are a change of pace (Allen originally intended to set the story in New York, but was unable to get financing in the U.S.), but they're the same kind of spacious, upscale digs everyone from billionaires to starving artists inhabits in Allen's New York films. Even the ironic ending feels insincere calculated to show off the art direction.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: R
- Review: Hailed as Woody Allen's best film in a decade which sets a very low bar and as a new direction in his work which appears to boil down to the fact that it's set in London instead of New York this thin chronicle of bad behavior am… (more)