Ho hum. Another mediocre 2000s Woody Allen film.
Scoop – sadly not based on the Evelyn Waugh novel – follows Scarlett Johansson as an American student journalist, new to London. The ‘Tarot Card Killer’ – a Jack The Ripper-esque murderer – is on the loose, and Johansson receives a tip-off about the possible identity – bonzer Australian guy English aristocrat, Hugh Jackman. However, the tip-off comes from a recently deceased Ian McShane, who is now nothing more than a “hunk of ectoplasm”. So she must investigate Jackman herself, but – as is the way with Woody Allen films – she quickly becomes romantically involved with him. And thrown into this scenario, helping her investigation, is Woody Allen as an aging stage magician.
The film does have some amusing lines, which are appreciated. But unfortunately none of these are either exceptionally funny or memorable, and there numerous others which try and sadly fail to generate any laughter. And across the length of a film – albeit the perfect Woody Allen length of 96 minutes – those chasms of non-laughter become all too noticeable.
Back to the positives, Johansson and Allen are surprisingly funny in their on-screen interactions together. However Hugh Jackman, as the love interest, is particularly poor. Blame for that should be laid primarily with the writing (although he is partly responsible for accepting the role in the first place). The romance between himself and Scarlett Johansson is horribly cringe-worthy, and not purposefully (à la ‘The Office’). We should just be thankful that – for once – the 71-year old Allen chose not to cast himself as the love interest.
Like his previous film, Match Point (2005) – also starring Johansson – Woody Allen shows us a version of England which bears no resemblance to any normal British existence. Instead, it is all country houses and aristocracy, Bayswater and Holland Park. If some satire was offered of this it would be fine, but sadly there is not. Instead, in its ‘grittier’ moments we see prostitutes ‘slumming it’ in glamorous South Kensington apartments.
Where Scoop does have one up on Match Point here is in the presence of Woody Allen’s sarcastic put-downs and one-liners, one of the stronger elements of the film. In Match Point meanwhile, the characters were all unintentionally grating and dislikeable.
Being a Woody Allen film, there are also numerous references to classic films that he likes. As Allen is obsessed with both magic and Ingmar Bergman, it was somewhat inevitable that ‘The Magician’ (Ingmar Bergman, 1958) would crop up. And a dramatic scene towards the end is a shot-for-shot remake of the excellent ‘A Place In The Sun’ (George Stevens, 1951). But these references are of no benefit to the film itself, and are only present in order that pretentious arseholes (like moi) can pat themselves on the back.
Despite being filmed in London, the film did not even get a theatrical release in the UK, and sadly this is indicative about the level of quality. To stress again, there are some amusing moments in the film, and it is passably entertaining. But it is Woody Allen delivering a bare minimum expected, rather than any great work.