Scoop starts out on awkward footing. The film follows Ian McShane’s recently deceased reporter on the boat across the Styx, where he gets a great scoop. McShane’s great and Woody makes the scene a lot of fun. Unfortunately, when Scarlett Johansson and Woody the actor show up in the next scenes, they can’t compare to the McShane scenes. For the first act, Scoop doesn’t work right. Woody can’t decide whether Johansson’s a ditz or not. When she is the ditz, it’s good stuff, the most realistic ditz I’ve seen in a while, but the character alternates during the scenes. Even more, during the first act, Woody and Johansson don’t act well together. At first, I thought it was because I couldn’t separate Woody the actor and Woody the director, but then he started masquerading as Johansson’s father in English society and I was too busy laughing to think about it anymore.
Woody plays a complete jackass, embarrassing the mortified Johansson over and over. She’s being romanced by Hugh Jackman during these scenes, which just makes it more horrifying. From this point, the film gets a lot better, getting itself on a firm narrative. Johansson comes off as less of a Woody muse in Scoop than she did in Match Point (he gives himself just as much to do) and, while appealing, her performance is kind of flat–if they’d been going for the character as a ditz, she’d be great, but they don’t. Woody’s hilarious, fully comfortable now in the non-romantic goof-ball lead. As the possible bad guy, Hugh Jackman’s great. I already mentioned McShane’s great performance…
At ninety-six minutes, I suppose Scoop takes too long before it gets started–and that accelerating isn’t the most pleasant–but it’s steady once it gets going, even getting better as it enters the third act. Still, I prefer it when the “light” Woody Allen films have a little more meat.
Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Maria Djurkovic; produced by Letty Aronson and Gareth Wiley; released by Focus Features.
Starring Woody Allen (Sid Waterman), Hugh Jackman (Peter Lyman), Scarlett Johansson (Sondra Pransky), Ian McShane (Joe Strombel), Charles Dance (Mr. Malcom), Romola Garai (Vivian), Kevin R. McNally (Mike Tinsley), Julian Glover (Lord Lyman), Victoria Hamilton (Jan) and Fenella Woolgar (Jane Cook).