Brothers Terry (Colin Farrell, "Alexander," "Miami Vice") and Ian (Ewan McGregor, "Moulin Rouge!," "Miss Potter") have different dreams - auto mechanic Terry needs to overcome a gambling habit in order to live the blue collar life he and fiancee Kate (Sally Hawkins, "Vera Drake," "Layer Cake") aspire to while Ian, who helps run their dad's failing restaurant, needs the money to seed a partnership in a California hotel development deal he thinks will make him rich. Both brothers should have brushed up on their mythology, though, when their first step upwards is to buy a sailing boat named "Cassandra's Dream."
Writer/director Woody Allen got all his old fans juiced when his first British set film, "Match Point," turned out to be one of the best things he'd done in years. It looked like the Woody of "Crimes and Misdemeanors" had let in a waft of Hitch. But now, after the lightweight effort that was "Scoop," Woody is strip mining his old material - "Cassandra's Dream" is a pallid retread of "Match Point" on a par with Hitchcock's lesser exercises.
"Match Point" was about a blue collar Irishman (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) looking to weasel his way into society via a gentrified client, who resorts to murder in order to do so. In a deliciously twisted musing on fate (and some comical cops worthy of the Master of Suspense), Woody let him get away with it. In "Cassandra's Dream" there are two protagonists with differing moral meters. It is McGregor's Ian who aspires to the upper class, borrowing expensive roadsters from Terry's work to woo the actress, Angela (newcomer Hayley Atwell), who is out of his league. When their mom's (Clare Higgins, "The Golden Compass") rich brother Howard (Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton") comes into town, the boys make a financial pitch, but the legendary Uncle who has made his fortune in a seemingly humanitarian way with health clinics in China throws them a curve ball. He will get Terry out of his jam and back Ian's real estate deal if they agree to 'get rid of' Martin Burns (Phil Davis, "Vera Drake," "Notes on a Scandal"), a man whose testimony would ruin Howard.
The chief pleasure of "Cassandra's Dream" is in watching Colin Farrell give one of his best performances. Terry, who doesn't aspire to the luxuries Ian's after, is tormented first by the idea of acquiescing to Howard's demands, then by guilt after the deed is done. Farrell's gradual tormented descent is truly harrowing. He also enjoys a natural chemistry with Hawkins, young sweethearts at the onset of a life of minor contentments. (It should be noted that the brunette Hawkins changed hair color here is a rather creepy choice on Allen's part because as a blonde she resembles none other than Johansson.) McGregor, though, is rather glib as Ian and there is no rooting interest in his character as there was in "Match Point's" Wilton, particularly when Terry becomes his next obstacle. Newcomer Atwell is pretty, albeit not particularly memorable - we are more interested in the family restaurant waitress Ian so coldly leaves behind. Tom Wilkinson, usually so multi-layered in every role he plays, only plays one note as plot mechanic Howard.
From a screenplay perspective, with the exception of Howard's outrageous demand (without which there would be no film), nothing Allen does is surprising. The boat provides a symbolic title, but is not worked into the film other than as a bookending device. The murder itself is nicely, even somewhat comically, staged, reflecting the mischievous Hitchcock, but the aftermath is exactly what we'd expect given the setup and the ending is an abrupt, shoulder-shrugging irony.
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy then made incapable of forestalling any of the tragedies she foresaw. With "Cassandra's Dream," Woody has given us a film that is all too easy to predict.
Robin did not see this film.
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