Thursday, 6 March 2014

Cassandra's Dream (2007)

Cassandra's Dream is a Woody Allen film in the Match Point/Crimes and Misdemeanors mould. A thriller and an homage to the Greek tragedies, it's a London set dark drama about two brothers, played by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, who require financial help from their rich uncle, a self made businessman played by Tom Wilkinson.  He agrees but wants some quid pro quo; they have to kill a business partner of his (Phil Davis) who could destroy his life and career.

Unfortunately the film itself is as ill advised as the brothers decision to help their uncle.

it's perhaps telling that Cassandra's Dream seems to have done quite well in America (where one New York critic hails it one of the best films of the 00s!) but bombed here in the UK. That's because it utterly fails at convincing a British audience of its setting. It doesn't help that the film stars a Scotsman and an Irishman doing rather hokey Mockney accents, but crucially it is written by a New Yorker who has no understanding of British, and specifically London, dialogue. Even if they'd got authentic Londoners to play the lead roles, every word in the script would still feel and sound totally false. It's a tin eared travesty that brings to the focus the film's potboiler nature. You can't invest in these characters because you know that in reality no one talks or acts like this. Maybe if it was an American movie, filmed in Woody's native New York, it wouldn't matter so much - we're all used to Woody's American movies and are perhaps a little predisposed to hearing an American accent deliver great chunks of exposition or pretentious statements in a decidedly confident and non self aware manner. We can believe in Woody in Woody-land, but less so when he sets foot outside of the US.

I'd heard some terrible things about this and so I've steered clear for some time. But being a fan of Woody and a few in the cast I decided to pick it up yesterday in Cex for just 50p. Well, I don't feel cheated out of 50p and it is better than I thought it would be...but not by much. There are moments where this morality tale of a film hints at something that could possibly impress and there is some fun to be had with the dark and inevitably doomed Hitchcock style plot, but they're few and far between. Of the cast it's largely the female performers, Sally Hawkins and Hayley Atwell, in the lesser roles who convince and impress alongside a specially written score for the film (a rarity in Woody's movies) by renowned composer Philip Glass.

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