The Woodman has not lost his touch of class.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
They're not jawing journalists Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell from "His Girl Friday" or witty detective William Powell and sassy lady Myrna Loy from Thin Man, but Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson are surprisingly charming as amateur sleuths in Scoop. Their screwball repartee is more postmodern than post Depression, Allen's writing filled with ironic self deprecation and plain old New York angst. Shades of the old wit occur rarely, such as when he, as Sid, the Great Splendini magician, responds about his background: "I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older I converted to narcissism."
Johansson, fresh from Allen's Match Point as a bad girl, here gets to be a relatively good, sometimes ditzy journalism student caught in a murder mystery suitable for London: a serial killer. The plot is a reworking of his recent London-based thriller Match Point, right down to the upper-class sins and the "American Tragedy"/Place in the Sun boating "accident." As a matter of fact, Allen is reworking Manhattan Murder Mystery and Purple Rose of Cairo to name just a couple of other examples. I care not if he reworks; I would like the new material to be at least the equal of the originals, and, alas, it is just a reflection of his younger greatness.
Allen as director and actor can't hide his love for the actress, as he couldn't for Diane Keaton, and therefore takes a middling comedy into an appropriate place down the Allen canon, not great but amusing, at times brilliantly satirical: About the suspected upper-class murderer, Sid (Allen) quips, "I'd be very surprised if he killed one person." This is vintage Allen humor. While there are barely any bright literary allusions as in most of his film, he lards Scoop with music from Grieg, Tchaikovsky, and Strauss to let us know the Woodman has not lost his touch of class.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com