A Woody Allen film is an annual 'event' towards which I always look with agreeable expectation. Unfortunately, this one I'd rate so far below the heights which he is capable of attaining that I find it hard to commend it on any level. In my view it deserves to be placed in the lower reaches of his lifetime of films.
Two things in particular didn't enhance my 'enjoyment' of the film. In this the lead is played by Jesse Eisenberg who is my current number one irritant on film. It started with 'The Social Network' and was consolidated by the dire 'Batman v Superman'. His appearance here doesn't in any way expunge my unfavourable attitude to him.
In addition, I watched this on a stiflingly hot day in a stuffy cinema, my only mood being to want to drop off to sleep.
Set in the 1930s, the first half of the film takes place in Hollywood where Eisenberg from New York comes to visit his uncle (Steve Carrell), an influential film agent who rubs shoulders with all the big screen stars of the time. He hopes to get a job in the industry but his uncle isn't keen on the idea. Meantime he falls for Carrell's secretary (Kristen Stewart), and courts her, wanting her to come back to New York where they'll marry. However, his uncle has similar designs on the same person. Added to this complication, and providing much of the little humour in this film - and very 'black' it is - is Eisenberg's older brother back in NY, a gangster leader who'll eliminate anyone who gets in his way, as well as doing 'favours' in that direction. Eisenberg, returning to NY becomes a successful night club manager and takes up with another young lady (Blake Lively).
I thought the whole film was on the laborious side, plotwise as well as script. There are a few of the 'sparkles' in dialogue which we come to expect from Allen, but they are much sparser than usual. Even Allen's trademark jazz background score seemed to be lazy choices - jazz improvisations of course, but only of old standards that we already know so well - and not only that, the same numbers are repeated several times! It's almost as though he couldn't be bothered to spice it up by giving us something unusual.
I felt relieved when this was over. It's not a film I'll want to recall. I may watch it again when it comes round on TV, but only if by then I've forgotten how inferior it was.
A serious disappointment, then, but being Allen who even at his worst is better than some, I'll award it ........5.5.
2 hours ago