Scoop (2006)

(In theaters, August 2006) As a standalone film, Scoop is rather nice and innocuous, dipping in magical realism to deliver a serial murderer comedy. Still, it finds its best resonance when compared to other Woody Allen films. Most of the comparisons will focus on Match Point, a film to which Scoop almost acts as a counter-point: Both are set in London and feature Scarlett Johansen, of course, but they almost act as thematic mirror images to each other: While Match Point was a deadly serious thriller with occasional moments of deep humour, Scoop is a crime comedy with occasional moments of deep darkness. The use of outmoded supernatural devices also refers to The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion. But Scoop also refers back to classic Woody Allen in how it allows Allen to ride his old stand-up routines once again, fully playing up to the neurotic personae he created for himself early in his career: There an undeniable pleasure at seeing Allen hamming it up, perhaps for the last time. His script and direction are impeccable, particularly so during the no-nonsense first act which roars from scene to scene by taking supernatural shortcuts and cutting away all the superfluous material. In this light, it’s a shame to see parts of the script make less sense as the conclusion wraps up. (Ask yourself who murdered the secretary, and why an oar wasn’t used at a crucial moment.) Scarlett Johansen also seems to have so much fun as a young journalist that it almost feel curmudgeonly to point out the film’s contradictions between crime and comedy, or the fuzzy third act. After Match Point, it’s certainly another very pleasant work by Allen, who finally seems to shake off the creative doldrums that afflicted him so visibly since the mid-nineties. If nothing else, he has the decency to cast himself as Johansen’s father rather than his lover: small favours, but we’ll take it.

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