3 out of 5 stars
The last good Woody Allen film was 2013’s Blue Jasmine and based on the track record of his regular but some might argue over-prolific output, we are due a really good one but sadly this isn’t it. The last few Allen movies, including this one, have been passable but whimsical and feel like he is target practising for new variations on old themes he has explored in better films before. The Woody substitute is Jesse Eisenberg which is a no-brainer. Kristen Stewart continues the repositioning of her career post-Twilight into more adult and indie fare and provides one of the more eye-catching performances here. But the star is cameraman Vittorio Storaro who photographs 1930s Hollywood in a golden hue as if the characters are always lit by a dawning sun. Coupled with the use of tightly framed close-ups for most of the dialogue scenes, the film becomes a loving homage to the era in which it was set. So while we get a very pretty picture, I can’t help but feel short-changed substance-wise, when the somewhat flat and lazy narration again only invokes memories of his better work while the last act of the film peters out without a proper payoff. Instead we get two longing gazes that better reflect his fans’ patient wait for the auteur who had amused and charmed them so gracefully before to return next year hopefully with something great.