Opening 2 Dec 2010
Helena’s (Gemma Jones) life is a shambles. After forty years Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) divorces her in a quest to regain his youth. Desperate, she turns to card reader Cristal (Pauline Collins). (We enter here, guided by a Narrator [Zak Orth] who keeps us on track, although we never learn his connection to the players.) Their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin) constantly argue; struggling to finish his next novel he cannot hold onto a job, so she takes work as personal assistant to the owner of London’s prestigious Clemente Art Gallery, Greg (Antonio Banderas).
Home alone, Roy becomes mesmerized by Dia (Freida Pinto); her window is directly across the inner courtyard, and eventually he finagles a contact. Concurrently Alfie introduces all to Charmaine (Lucy Punch), a bimbo he sees as his fountain of youth. Meanwhile Sally’s intuitive artistic sense prompts her to introduce artist friend Iris (Anna Friel) to Greg; covertly she daydreams about a liaison with her also unhappily married boss. Throw into the mix Sally’s close friend Jane (Fenella Woolgar) who sounds out their setting up a gallery, to which Sally turns to mom Helena for financial help. Just a few of the intricacies to whet your appetite.
Laced with wit, humor and pathos, the film is packed with moral positioning and more than a little irony. Writer/director Woody Allen exceeds himself in the telling of this simple story: sit through the end credits; that they are so short substantiates the forte lies in the story. Casting director Gail Stevens’ brilliant choices fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Accolades also go to renowned Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and Alisa Lepselter’s precise editing. I wonder if Allen chose When You Wish Upon a Star to open/close his film with the apropos adage, “be careful of what you wish for”, in mind? Although not a die-hard Allen fan, I plan to see this film again, it is that good. (Marinell Haegelin)