Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins, Tom Wilkinson
Watch Cassandra’s Dream online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Google Play / Amazon Instant
With Magic in the Moonlight and Scoop both released in the UK on VOD this month, we devote a week to looking back at Woody Allen’s career.
Back in the early 2000s, it became hard to imagine that Woody would ever get out of the woods. After the mildly entertaining Melinda and Melinda came the flawed Match Point – a class-driven Crime and Punishment. Scoop, meanwhile, is only just about to get a UK release, nine years after it was made. With Cassandra’s Dream, Woody returned to tragedy – hardly surprising given his age, disposition and love of Ingmar Bergman.
Cassandra concerns two brothers, Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell). They’re your average Londoners. Except one’s from Scotland and the other’s from Ireland, giving them both terrible accents.
They find themselves in a spot of financial bother – Terry eyebrow-deep in gambling debts and Ian desperate to get off with a money-gobbling actress – and therefore beg big shot uncle Howard (Wilkinson) for money. He consents. On one condition: they kill Martin (Phil Davis), a colleague who knows too much about Howard’s dodgy dealings. After some soul-searching, they agree to bump him off. Tagging along for the ride are their respective partners; Farrell’s Kate (Hawkins) and Ewan’s Lucy.
McGregor’s, though, is eclipsed by another, as Hayley Atwell’s saucepot actress Angela unwittingly lures him into a life of murder with her high expectations and scant ethics. Delivering her lines with a cool authority, Atwell elicits a decent turn from Ewan without stealing the show.
Away from Angela, McGregor makes mistakes. So does Farrell. They both invest their archetypes with emotional depth, but still manage to fluff their lines; the chemistry between the two only just keeps the exchanges from becoming laughable. Luckily, Sally Hawkins and Tom Wilkinson provide stable support, the former somehow avoiding the vocal plague that even ensnares the latter in a pivotal, rain-drenched scene.
Behind the camera, Woody shoots things straight, with a low-key style that at least suits the material. He still has a knack for structure – a fine achievement given his penchant to pause and ponder on fate and death. The problem comes in the pace of production; rapidly reeling off the film results in hasty takes, poor delivery and flawed performances. Life may be over much too quickly, but not everything should be treated like a swift one-liner.
Cassandra’s Dream is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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