Monday, July 02, 2007

Pretty cute: Scoop and Scarlett

by Ryland Walker Knight

I avoided this last summer as I'd hated Match Point the winter before. I was also convinced, then, that Scarlett Johansson was nothing more than, well, a great looking girl who got lucky with Lost In Translation but movie-wise has only travelled downhill; looks are only ever the opposite: I mean, Jesus. Plus, I'll break the broken record again: Woody Allen's films haven't delighted in some time, even when they're funny. However, I thought Scoop, while mostly pointless and admittedly a silly trifle, was not half bad. Well, maybe half bad. But certainly not horrible. I laughed frequently and, on the whole, everybody is charming. Hugh Jackman continues to prove he's a perfect screen actor, even when the characters are beneath him, and Scarlett looks like she's having fun, even when she's trying too hard. And Woody himself is there, blabbering on and acting a fool so well, as he has in years/films past. The point here isn't that there's some twist or anything: the point is simply to entertain. Woody's character is a magician, which is a nice-and-tidy metaphor for film director, and it's through his stage that the recently deceased Ian McShane character comes back as a well-informed, goading spectre of his former journalist self. I like the idea that news can come back to the dead in a film and help us solve our daily mysteries, but it's the least interesting thing in the picture; that would be watching the pretty leads act pretty and look pretty and laugh pretty cute. And there's lots of jokes. What I didn't expect was how Woody's technique behind the camera is so slick and efficient and effortless. It's easy to forget how talented a director he was, and can be, given all the middling movies he's made (like this one). But, in the end, Scoop is ostensibly better than something like Curse of the Jade Scorpion (or Match Point for that matter) simply because it's consistently funny, and not cold. If there's something here it's that comedic warmth that's been missing for some time. I don't know if that means his next movie, a drama about two brothers (played by Collin Farrell and Ewan McGregor) drawn into crime for the money, will be any good, but it will probably be similarly efficient, which was the best thing Match Point had going for it, too, when I think about it. That, and, ahem, Scarlett's naked body. Yeah, I said it.

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