If I'm not mistaken, I do believe this this is my first time seeing one of Woody Allen's purely dramatic films. And I must say, I'm not disappointed. My viewing experienced was a bit tarnished by a few unfortunate interruptions, so perhas I should rewatch it, but nonetheless, I found this to be a really engrossing film.
Chris is a recently retired tennis player who fidns himself among the upper crust of British society after he mankes friends with a guy named Tom. Chris begins a relationship with Tom's older sister Chloe and eventually begins an affair with Tom's fiancee Nola- an American who's a struggling actress. That's the basic set up: guy has an affair and tries his best to keep his life from unraveling as a result of all that is going on around him such as his becoming a workaholic and him and his wife havign difficulty conceiving a child.
While the broad plot is nothing new, the way it is done feels fresh and seems spectacular, because that's how strong of a filmmaker Allen is. The film seemed very literary and operatic toi me, and indeed opera palys a huge role, as does literature, as research tells me this is Allen's take on Crime and Punishment, as well as a call back to his earleir film Crimes and Misdemeanors. When this came out, it marked a change of pace for olel Woody as it was his first time working with a predominately non-American cast, his first time working with Scarlett Johansson, and his first film done in the U.K.
It's also rather dark, and frankly rather nihilistic, especially towards the end. This caught me off guard a bit, but I think this was a neat way to handle things. It also comes off as more classy and intelligent than most films that deal with this sort of subject matter, but it could just be because it's Woody. Who knows?
The cast are quite good. Johansson is terrific as always, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is really wonderful, and Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode are both pretty decent. Putting in a nice little supporting role is Brian Cox, and he's always a good choice, so props there as well. I've never really found Allen's films to be all that showy or stylistic from a cinematic perspective a la Mann or Scorsese, for example, but the sequence involving murder and the escape really floored me, and is a nice little stirring and rather brilliant piece of work in and of itself. In fact, besides getting interrupted a few times, my only real complaint is the inclusion of the dream sequence stuff near the end. It's not bad, but it inda took me out of the moment and I don't think it worked as well as it should have. Maybe it should have just been left out or that sort of thing should have been done throughout the whole film.
All in all, this is quite a film. Here's to hoping Allen's previous dramatic works (or predominately dramatic ones like this) and any he does from now on are as strong as this. Definitely give this one a look.