Thursday, 29 May 2014


Reasonably diverting (though to me also somewhat confusing) film from writer/director John Turturro.
I think I'd not have been alone when hearing about this film for the first time and being told that Woody Allen was J.T.'s co-star in this, only to feel a bit deflated on learning that it's not one of Allen's own self-written and directed films. But his character here does have all his unmistakable traits (stumbling conversation, ever-victim, unfortunate scrapes etc) and quite a few funny, quick-witted repartees, which I'd guess were largely his own contributions to the script.

I haven't seen Allen in a film not directed by himself since 1991 in 'Scenes from a Mall' with Bette Midler (apart from a voice in the animation 'Antz') - and it is a refreshing change even though his character is the one we already know so well through his own films, and which is one you can either take or leave; which I do take.

The two main actors play lifelong buddies when Allen, having to close the bookshop he owns, has a wheeze to get some much needed income stemming from a chance remark from his female dermatologist (Sharon Stone - another 'long time no see', as is Turturro himself) that she fancies a menage a trois with another female and a suitable man, at which Allen proposes Turturro's name before even consulting him. With some persuasion, J.T., already holding several jobs simultaneously, finally agrees, sharing his earnings with Allen as his 'manager' as it becomes more than a one-off.
Another important, though more serious, strand of the story is Vanessa Paradis as a rather demure widow who also is the subject of Turturro's attention as masseur, her movements being observed by a curious and jealous Orthodox Jew Community Patrol Officer, Liev Schreiber, complete with big beard, ringlets, yarmulke and related garb.
In fact the Jewishness aspect has a particularly high profile in this film, culminating in a scene where Allen is abducted on the street and made to appear before a 'court' to defend his role in rumours about his breaching Jewish rules of permissible behaviour. I think there were chances missed to make this funnier than it turned out.

I found the film slightly more than merely passable. If it hadn't been for Allen's presence and that of Vanessa Paradis' quite luminous appearance on screen I would have marked it down a bit. But it makes for a reasonably satisfying and largely entertaining hour and a half................................6.


  1. Hey Ray, although you gave this one a 6, I will give this one a miss. There is something about it that doesn't grab me. Maybe on DVD. (our cinema prices just went up again... OMG! seriously!!!)

    1. If it hadn't had Woody Allen I too might not have bothered, Sol. But as a decades-long fan I find watching him, although he's always the same, as compulsive as watching.....well, as watching Hugh Grant. Having said that, unless you are also a diehard aficianado of the man, I don't think you're missing much.

      Yes, cinema prices can be a serious deterrent these days, unless one has such resources that it doesn't matter. The art-house cinemas in Brighton recently increased the prices for over-60s at certain shows from £3 to £4.50 - and with no warning! I haven't been to either the Odeon or UGC multiplexes for some months and shouldn't be at all surprised to find that prices there too have taken another leap. Which is all very well, but our incomes, although increasing gradually, are going up nothing like the extent they hike the prices. So what can we do? Only go less frequently, which means the cinemas' revenue is reduced so prices have to go up again......and so on.

  2. Thanks for the note about "Scenes From a Mall". When I read that Allen was in it this but did not write or direct I was trying to scroll back in memory to think of when that last happened. I could not recall anything since "The Front"

    1. Ah, 'The Front', with the marvellous Zero Mostel who left us far too early. Good film.

  3. Ray,
    I"ll put this movie in my Netflix queu. I like Woody Allen even though he always does the same shtick. I'm not turned off my all the "child molestion" nonsense that Scorned Woman Mia Farrow threw out there some years back. She needs to get over herself.
    Thanks for the recommend.

    1. It's a must for all Woody Allen fans, Ron - though I do find I like seeing him on screen because I'm always waiting for a 'bon mot' to come out, which often it does. I also like watching his expressive hand movements when he's talking (a lot of Americans do this much more than we buttoned-up Brits) and it's satisfying to watch.
      I think if he hadn't been in this then it would have been a more forgettable film. But he does make it into something better.

      I don't know what to think about Mia's side of 'the' story. I suspect that there is a side to Woody that we'd rather wasn't there, but I don't know. I, least of all, couldn't know something that others don't.
      I do miss the collaboration of the two of them, a period when he came out with his very best films, my favourite of all (I know I've said it before), still being 'Hannah & Her Sisters'.