Cassandra's Dream (12A)
Sunday 25 May 2008
Cassandra's Dream is the new Woody Allen film. Like 2005's Match Point, it's a London-set drama that asks whether an ordinary man could get away with murder, but this time the story concerns cockneys, not aristocrats, which, in Woody-world, means more floral wallpaper and less oak panelling.
Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell star as two brothers in desperate need of money. Farrell has to pay off his gambling debts in a hurry, while McGregor wants to finance a property deal, so he can whisk his actress girlfriend, Hayley Atwell, off to California. The answer to their prayers could be their rich uncle, Tom Wilkinson, a renowned cosmetic surgeon. But Wilkinson's business has hit its own bumps in the road. The testimony of a former colleague, Phil Davis, could land him in jail, so he pays his nephews to make Davis disappear.
I'm a devout Woody-worshipper, and there were times watching Cassandra's Dream when I was impressed that he was exploring such dark and serious themes, and in a more intense, streamlined manner than he did in Match Point. But at other times I realised that if it were an episode of EastEnders I'd be laughing it off the screen. It's not that the characters don't talk like Londoners. It's more that they don't talk like human beings. They're always explaining things that everyone in the room would already knows, and they keep repeating the name of the person they're talking to. The last time I heard dialogue like that was in a financial services advert on daytime TV.
Tom Wilkinson lends authority and urgency to his role, and Sally Hawkins, the star of Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky, improvises a small part into a living, breathing character, just as Matthew Goode did in Match Point. But most of the lines go to McGregor and Farrell, and it's painful to hear their not-quite-cockney accents as they struggle through the not-quite-cockney dialogue. It's a film that makes you want to jot "sloppy" and "must try harder" in the margins.
Allen is well known for doing no more than a few takes of each shot before he packs up and moves on to the next one, and in Cassandra's Dream it shows. He lets the actors stumble over their lines, and there's even a moment when the camera slips out of focus. It's exasperating, because it wouldn't have taken many more days' work on the screenplay or on the set to turn Cassandra's Dream into a powerful film. Instead, it seems as if Allen wrote a first draft, and then filmed the first rehearsal.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people