If I were teaching an NYU film school course in “How To Write An Amusingly Snooty Pan,” I would have the students study Guy Lodge‘s withering Variety review of Woody Allen‘s Rifkin’s Festival. It’s not only masterfully written, but it conveys the spiritual fatigue that Guy was grappling with as he watched Allen’s 49th film, ands especially when he sat down to put his reactions to pen.
As I danced through it I was thinking, “Woody has made Guy suffer, but Guy has magnanimously not turned around and made his readers suffer in kind…he’s taken the Allen lethargy and converted it into something spryer and perhaps even funnier, I’m thinking, than what the film passes along.”
Excerpt: “Following Wallace Shawn and a typically jumbled grab-bag of fine actors as they mosey around the San Sebastián Film Festival — for which the film acts as an extended promo, duly opening this year’s edition — Rifkin’s Festival is a scenic summer-wind romcom that was presumably a good time for everyone involved. Saying the same for the audience would be a stretch, but on the spectrum of late Woody Allen clunkers, it registers on the mild, instantly-evaporating end of the scale, unlikely to change the positions of any loyalists, detractors, ex-fans or distributors with regard to the controversy-tailed filmmaker.
“Those who still turn up” — i.e., Guy understands your Kate Winslet-like
ignorance animus and wouldn’t be surprised if you decide not to see the film, especially given the fact Woody’s been on a creative downslide since Midnight in Paris — “will be met with a blend of exhaust fumes from past Allens (and not even major ones, with Celebrity and Vicky Cristina Barcelona surfacing amid the recycled material), and a couple of sly one-liners in search of a peak-era script. These are the expectations now, and for better or worse, they are met.”