Writer/director Woody Allen’s 50th movie (and, according to him, his last) was made in Paris and in French because, to be blunt, no one wants to work with him in America due to his continuing controversial status.
Woody (who recently turned 88) therefore offers a story here that would have worked just as well if it had been set in New York, and featured former stars and colleagues like, say, Scarlett Johansson and Jesse Eisenberg, or maybe even Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix. His regular behind-the-camera team is on board though, with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro making Paris look as gorgeous as expected.
Young Fanny Fournier (Lou de Laâge) is something of a trophy wife to Jean (Melvil Poupaud), and although she thinks she’s happy, things change when, by chance, she runs into former high school friend Alain Aubert (Niels Schneider). They meet each other for lunch, which then becomes another, longer lunch and, of course, an affair, which she naturally keeps a secret from Jean, who grimly senses that something is up with her.
Alain is a very Woody creation (a cute writer living in a nice apartment and given to grand proclamations about love), while Jean is shown to be meaner and more controlling as the story goes on. Fanny doesn’t seem to really know what Jean’s well-paid work is too, but he eventually uses his connections to set into play the second-half-or-so of the plot, with echoes of Woody’s previous pics Match Point and Irrational Man, and maybe even, ahem, Crimes And Misdemeanors.
The very sweet Lou and Niels give appealing performances, and they’re matched by the rest of the cast, most of whom should prove unfamiliar to anyone less-than-versed in contemporary French cinema, although you’ll probably know Valérie Lemercier as Fanny’s amusingly suspicious Mum Camille.
It’s a step up from Woody’s most recent work (like the poor A Rainy Day In New York and Rifkin’s Festival), but hardly on par with classics like his Blue Jasmine and (what else?) Midnight In Paris. But, if he really must retire, then it’s a pleasing enough final hurrah from one of America’s greatest, most prolific and, yes, creepiest filmmakers.