Woody Allen's latest sees him using film to explore his own dark philosophies of life, and he does not even try to hide the blatant-ness of it. At least this time round, Emma Stone has better chemistry with Joaquin Phoenix than she had with Colin Firth in the lighter, more romantic Magic in the Moonlight (the irony!).
Using the classic Three Acts structure, Allen used it to explore his own believes in morality and amorality and his own existentialism crisis. However, it lacked grace and subtlety and courage, with Allen just dipping his toes - and occasionally the whole foot - into the subject matter.
The story itself was predictable and borderline indulgent and it really did take its time. There were no unexpected curveballs, so the process of getting to the end had to be interesting and riveting to sustain the (intelligent) audience's attention. Sadly it was not.
Not even the snazzy Jazzy soundtrack could help to distract much.
Phoenix was a great choice to play the lead. He is one of the better actors of his generation and always inhabit his characters with the deepest understanding and dedication. Here he is overweight (gosh, that paunch was distracting!) and slumped over in the First Act, Rougeishly handsome and straight-back in the Second, and a slow crumbling of the facade in the Third.
Stone on the other hand, replayed her wide-eyed Romantic ingenue, for which she does a great job. But opposite Phoenix with such dark material, she paled. She held her own much better in the rom-com with Firth. Her wide-eyes failed to convey the necessary emotions and complexity that her character needed. Perhaps it is time for Allen to look for another muse.
Whereas Parker Posey held her own against Phoenix. Her scenes with Phoenix were the highlights of the movie. Together they both felt natural, and Allen's dialogue felt less self-serving. Posey was a delight to watch.
Phoenix and Posey would be the reasons to see this 90-odd minutes film that felt like 180.