ALLEN v. FARROW – movie review

HBO Documentary Films
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
Writers: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Dylan O’Sullivan Farrow, Ronan Farrow, Carly Simon, Frank Maco
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/24/21
Opens: February 21, 2021 on 4 Sunday nights at 9p for one approximately hour each


Who do you believe? Woody Allen was accused of sexually molesting his partner’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, when she was seven. That was twenty-eight years ago. Woody Allen’s defense is that Mia Farrow, who is Dylan’s adoptive mother and Allen’s girlfriend, manipulated the child to accuse her stepdad. Why? According to Allen, Mia Farrow is a vengeful woman not all-that-right in the head. Allen was never found guilty in a court of law because Frank Maco, the prosecutor, believed the little girl “too fragile” to be put on the stand. HBO Documentary Films now presents four episodes to examine the case, each about an hour beginning February 21, 2021.

Never mind that Allen was never convicted. During the past year or two, various people who starred in his movies, Timothée Chalamet, Griffin Newman, Rebecca Hall among others (but not Diane Keaton who remains a big fan) are donating their salaries from those films, some to anti-abuse organizations. Amazon, its distributor, refused to air “A Rainy Day in New York” in any U.S. theaters, but folks in Poland somehow were exempt from the boycott. “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred in their bones.” [Marc Anthony].

Some critics have complained that writer-directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, whose “The Bleeding Edge” indicts some modern medical technology, are biased. They must be convinced that Allen’s calling his partner not right in the head sounds overblown. Also, that child reported that her father took her into the attic on one day and touched her in the butt and the vagina, an accusation that she has upheld consistently since the incident, sounds spot-on. They add that this was not a one-time, twenty-minutes’ molestation, showing pictures of Allen and Dylan in awfully tight hugs and improper looks. That Allen married Mia Farrow’s stepdaughter, Soon-Yi Previn in 1997 despite an age difference of thirty-five years, becomes part of the heap of “evidence” that Allen likes ‘em young.

Needless to say, Mia Farrow, who thoroughly believes her child, broke up with Allen, saying she wishes he had never entered her life, and proves this in a flurry of taped phone conversations. The filmmakers more than imply that Woody Allen is a hero to New Yorkers given the major works filmed in the Big Apple and his view that he feels stifled in the countryside.

This is a well-paced doc, giving us a breather after every hour, presumably showing us all the evidence we need to know. Detractors include Ronan Farrow, a journalist who wrote a scathing anti-Allen article in the New Yorker, and who titillates readers of “People” magazine and the like suggesting that he is the son of Frank Sinatra. Allen defends himself rather well not only in press conferences but in his memoir “Apropos of Nothing,” which makes Allen wish that he never met Mia Farrow. So feelings are reciprocal.

Believe it or not stepfathers and even biological daddies rape their young charges, whether in the statutory form or via outright violence. But if you are a celeb like Woody Allen or like Roman Polanski (who had statutory relations with a thirteen-year-old and is unable to set foot in the U.S. lest he go to jail), you get the book thrown at you. Though IndieWire’s critic states that “after this documentary, no one should want to hear from Allen for a very long, long time, how about reserving judgment? I recognize the writer-directors’ one-sided treatment. I believe one is innocent until proven guilty. Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby went to jail but only after being found guilty of sexual misconduct in courts of law. Making charges against people without clear evidence, unproven in a fair trial, may have worked during the Spanish Inquisition, but some of us like to think we are (after a four-years’ respite) a democracy.

© 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK – movie review

MPI and Signature Entertainment
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Liev Schreiber, Suzanne Smith, Olivia Boreham-Wing, Ben Warheit, Griffin Newman, Selena Gomez, Diego Luna
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/23/20
Opens: October 9, 2020 in the U.S.

A Rainy Day in New York Movie Poster

My fellow Americans, we’re in luck. There was a delay in opening “A Rainy Day in New York” until after Poland had seen this movie. This has something to do with objections that Amazon Studios had to its director, Woody Allen, who has never been found guilty of anything besides being our country’s top maker of sophisticated comedies and playing a mean Klezmer clarinet. Filmed in Woody’s favorite city, this latest entry features Timothée Chalamet as Gatsby, a rich college student who finds himself more creative amidst the carbo monoxide of New York’s than listening to the sound of Arizona crickets. Chalamet who introduced himself to the movie audience with “Men, Women and Children,” about life among high school students and parents changed by the internet, but he made it big in the starring role of a seventeen-year-old student in “Call Me By Your Name.”

Here Chalamet’s character Gatsby, son of a fabulously rich mother (Cherry Jones) who, near the conclusion explains to her son the unusual way she fell into money, has been dating the effervescent co-ed Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) at one Yardsley College. The young woman’s life changes when she makes her third trip to Manhattan.

Nothing much happens other than a roundelay that threatens their relationship, specifically Gatsby’s meeting with the witty Chan (Selena Gomez) who is taking part in a film and Ashleigh’s meeting with Roland Pollard, a director—who is probably not a stand-in for Woody Allen given Pollard’s drunkenness and rage when a movie cut is not going according to his liking.

All is filmed on location in some spots that no tourist leaves without seeing and other areas that are home to died-in-the-wool New Yorkers—including Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Carlyle Hotel, a director’s screening room. The picture belongs to both Chalamet and Fanning, though the twenty-five-year-old man may or may not be serving as a stand-in for Mr. Allen’s signature characters. He is confused, eccentric, at war with his rich mother who doesn’t “see” him and instead tries to mold him into the shape of her society. But he is not a nebbish, preferring to spend some time winning fortunes at the blackjack table, fitting in quite nicely with the older players who think mistakenly that they can take him for a ride.

The two anticipate a romantic getaway from college, spending a weekend during a moderately strong storm, but as they say, man plans and God laughs. She goes to interview Roland Pollard for her college paper; he has his own liaisons while she is busy. She is hit on by Francisco Vega (Diego Luna), who is followed madly by paparazzi, obviously sexier than her steady boyfriend. While he is trying to avoid a party thrown by his family in a palatial East Side home, he runs into Chan, the sister of a former girlfriend.

He has more in common with Chan, who is quick with the one-liners. When she hears that Gatsby’s girl is from Arizona, she wonders: “What do you talk about, cactus?” And, “I would invite you to lunch, but I’m all out of beef jerky.” In other words this is not the kind of movie that people in the red states might adore, given that many of them seem to think that “Make America Great Again” is Shakespeare.

The movie as a whole lacks the classic look and sophisticated charm of “Manhattan,” “Annie Hall,” and “Match Point,” and the delightful fantasy of “Midnight in Paris,” which makes one think that now at the age of 84 he may have to settle for “just pleasant.” I may be wrong: we’ll be sure to check out his upcoming “Rifkin’s Festival” (a married American couple go to the San Sebastian Festival, and who can resist any film with Christoph Waltz and Wallace Shawn?

92 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B


WONDER WHEEL – movie review


    Amazon Studios
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: B+
    Director:  Woody Allen
    Written by: Woody Allen
    Cast:  Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, James Belushi
    Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 10/20/17
    Opens: December 1, 2017
    click for larger (if applicable)
    Location is a major character in Woody Allen’s pictures, and the great director often uses different time periods in the same way that “Boardwalk Empire” used the 1920s for Atlantic City. So let me tell you something about Brooklyn’s Coney Island, where Woody Allen’s 45th movie takes place In 1950, when “Wonder Wheel” takes place, Coney Island was going to seed.  In fact I can’t remember a time that the place was anything but.  However when I was a kid, a year younger than Woody Allen, my friends and I would go to Coney almost every weekend, usually to use the crowded beach.  People of different groups stayed in the “Bay” on the beach with others of their age.  Vendors would trod the sands like nomads on the Sahara, offering ice cream pops and hot dogs.  My mother would give me one dollar for the afternoon: ten cents for the round trip on the subway, fifteen cents for a hot dog at Nathan’s, another fifteen for the French fries, and the rest to splurge at Steeplechase where the wonder wheel and roller coaster were the big sellers.

    Everything in “Wonder Wheel” takes place in the shadow of the eponymous ride, and I can’t imagine how Allen arranged for hundreds of extras to lie on the beach, but with modern cinematography just about anything is possible. “Wonder Wheel” is partly a crime drama, partly a look at a dysfunctional family.  There are genuinely comic moments throughout especially whenever Jim Belushi rants and raves.  The focus is principally on Kate Winslet in the role of Ginny, and almost needless to say she’s as wonderful as the wheel that goes round and round a hundred meters or so from her.

    The story opens on the pretty Carolina (Juno Temple), who is on the run from a gang intent on cutting her life short at her tender 26 years.  Some gangsters and maybe even her criminal husband think she knows too much and she’s too likely to “sing,” so she returns to her father Humpty’s (Jim Belushi) seedy flat, trying to reconcile with him as they had no contact for the last five years. Ginny (Kate Winslet), her stepmom, is maintaining a loveless marriage to the rather large and tantrum-friendly husband, so forty-year-old Ginny, who wanted to be an actress but settled for being a waitress in a clam house, is delighted to begin an affair with a handsome young lifeguard, Mickey (Justin Timberlake).  Trouble brews when Mickey seems to prefer Carolina.  As Ginny realizes the power of her competition, she may no longer be worried that mobsters are after Carolina.

    Woody Allen’s theatrical script, which drops names like Eugene O’Neill, Hamlet, and Oedipus, wrestles with serious themes: marriage and the family; the sadness of aging; mind-boggling envy; but he does this with a lighter touch than what inspired him in some previous serious dramas. All the funny parts fade away during its shattering ending, probably to go down as one of the most emotional finales of 2017.  In the last few moments, Kate Winslet delivers a poignant monologue that might be felt full of frustration that could be felt by other women when they reach middle age, or for that matter like all middle-aged folks when they see youth pounding on the door.

    Woody Allen’s 45th, then, may not be “Annie Hall,” his masterpiece, but it sure as hell is not “Bananas.”  While it’s true that no-one can deliver like Kate Winslet for the eighty-one year old director who has knocked out a film almost every year, but Allen is working with a terrific ensemble; one in the role of a pretty young woman who gave up her chances when she married a thug; another as a lifeguard who has eyes for the forty-year-old until she meets her stepdaughter; a third as a frustrated ex-drunk who at first wants to kick her daughter out until he bonds with her; last and best a woman who has just crossed over into middle age and whose tragedy is that her big dream of romance with a younger man may be nothing more than fantasy.

    Rated PG-13.  101 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?

    Grade – B