Scoop Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s latest movie, Scoop, noticeably failed to live up to the expectations raised by its weightier precursor, Match Point, when it opened this past summer. Critics weren’t so much as hard on the film as breezily dismissive, and the public stayed away, but it deserves better. Something of a light companion piece to the previous film, Scoop again stars Scarlett Johansson as an American expatriate in London involved with a potential murderer. This time, she’s an aspiring reporter put on the trail of a serial killer by the ghost of a renowned journalist (Ian McShane) brought back by a magic act. Enlisting the help of the magician, the Great Splendini (Allen), she tracks the suspect, a wealthy, titled dreamboat (Hugh Jackman) and complications ensue when she inevitably falls for him. This material may be viewed as a little tame, a return to comfortably familiar territory after the diamond-hard bitterness of Match Point. A lot of the jokes are shop-worn, Johansson isn’t as comfortable with bright banter as with sullen introspection and the talented Jackman is underused. On the other hand, Allen continues to benefit as a filmmaker from the change of scene to England. Scoop is far more pleasantly airy than his previous NYC-set comedies. (Remember the truly turgid Curse of the Jade Scorpion? Or rather, don’t.) Many of the one-liners are first-rate: "This guy is not a serial killer, believe me. I’d be very surprised if he even killed one person.” Johansson grows ever more charming as the film progresses and she’s photographed smashingly. Jackman does occasionally get to display the sinister ambiguity underneath the friendly surface veneer, suggesting he could one day be a suitable Cary Grant in a proper Hitchcockian star vehicle. Most intriguing of all, however, is how Allen utilises his own star persona. In his bumbling mentor role, Allen seems to have found a new way to present himself onscreen. Freed of the burden of playing a romantic lead, Allen imbues his familiar neurotic nebbish with touching intimations of mortality. Also, by making the character a practitioner of one of the hoariest showbiz arts, Allen seems to be commenting on his own precarious position in the film business. In the end, the film is a lot richer than such a divertissement needs to be. The DVD transfer is pristine, which makes up for the conspicuous lack of extras.