I’m sorry but my interest in Woody Allen‘s Rifkin’s Festival has just…well, kind of plummeted.
Due respect but casting Wallace Shawn as a dismayed romantic protagonist (a cuckold) is not what anyone would call audience-friendly. Shawn has always been a brilliant wit and an amusingly thinky performer, but he’s 77 years old, for heaven’s sake. By any semi-realistic biological standard he’s “out of the game.”
And in the film he’s married to an attractive looker (played by Gina Gershon, whose real age is discoverable but who appears to be somewhere in her late 40s). It would be one thing if, say, Allen had cast the 75-year-old Steve Martin in the role. But not a bald Bilbo Baggins.
Yes, Shawn’s character would naturally feel wounded and disoriented by Gershon’s temporary infidelity, but it’s all but impossible to relate to Shawn in this context. My first reaction was “this is almost like John Huston casting Lionel Barrymore in the Humphrey Bogart role in Key Largo.”
41 years ago Allen used Shawn’s appearance as a sexual joke. In a fleeting Manhattan cameo, Shawn played Jeremiah, a sexually dynamic ex-boyfriend of Diane Keaton‘s “Mary” character. Allen: “Well, you certainly fooled me. This is not what I expected.” Keaton: “What did you expect?” Allen: “Well, you said that he was a great ladies’ man and that he opened you up sexually, and then this little homunculus…” Keaton: “He’s quite devastating.”
But now we’re supposed to take Shawn seriously as a husband with a saucy wife and certain amorous capabilities?