Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is the story of an insurance investigator who is hypnotized by a crook to steal some jewels with an efficiency expert. The film is another return to some of the earlier comedies of the 1970s that Allen did while infusing it with the suspense films of the 1940s where the film is set. Also starring Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Berkley, David Odgen Stiers, and Wallace Shawn. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a disappointing and humorless film from Woody Allen.

The film revolves a brilliant insurance expert who is sparring with a new efficiency expert at their office where the two are hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist at a party where they both steal jewels as they’re unaware of their crimes. There, the two reluctantly have to work with each other to discover what is really going on as suspicion is occurring over the thefts. It’s an interesting concept as it is set in 1940 where it plays into that world of crime and mystery but Woody Allen’s screenplay often gets a bit repetitive at times where the humor is often forced at times while some of the plotting doesn’t have any weight to the story. Notably in the tumultuous love-hate relationship in its lead characters in investigator C.W. Briggs (Woody Allen) and the efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt) where they bicker and fall in love and so on. It’s that aspect in the script that really bogs the story down though there are a few moments that are funny but the eventual payoff in confronting the true criminal is disappointing.

Allen’s direction is quite straightforward as he aims to go for something that is reminiscent of the mystery films of the past though he wisely doesn’t go for any kind of voice-over narration. The compositions do have some flair in some of the tracking shots and wide shots to display the feel and chaos of the office though some of the intimate moments don’t have that same spark. Notably as there’s a lack of real suspense in many of the mysterious aspects of the film where it’s more about Briggs and Fitzgerald bickering and trying to find out what’s really going on. Even as its outcome is a bit flat and predictable where it becomes quite obvious and doesn’t really have a sense of surprise or fulfillment that endings have. Overall, Allen creates a film that doesn’t have much weight or broad humor despite a few moments that keeps the film being a total failure.

Cinematographer Zhao Fei does fantastic work with the film‘s photography as it has a lot of style in its look as well as its approach to lighting for many of its interior settings as it‘s one of the film‘s big highlights. Editor Alisa Lepselter does nice work with the editing to play up some of the humorous moments and montages of the thefts that happen throughout the film. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Jessica Lanier and art director Tom Warren, does amazing work with the set pieces from the office that Briggs and Fitzgerald work at to some of the places they go to in their investigation.

Costume designer Suzanne McCabe does brilliant work with the costumes with the look of the many dresses the female characters wear from simple and colorful to more radiant and dazzling in its different looks. Sound editor Robert Hein does terrific work with the sound to play up some of the atmosphere in the office as well as some of the scenes in the theft. The film’s excellent soundtrack includes a lot of jazz music from Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Harry James, and several others.

The casting by Laura Rosenthal and Juliet Taylor is superb as it includes some notable appearances from Brian Markinson as a fellow investigator of Briggs, Wallace Shawn as another investigator/amateur magician who would play a key role in unveiling the mystery in the third act, Elizabeth Berkley as a secretary that works in the office, and David Odgen Stiers as the hypnotist Voltan who is the mastermind of the thefts. Dan Aykroyd is terrific as the company boss Chris Magruder who is having an affair with Fitzgerald while Charlize Theron is amazing as the seductive socialite Laura Kensington who tries to seduce Briggs.

Helen Hunt is alright as Betty Ann Fitzgerald as she brings some energy to her role though she’s not given enough material to make her character more interesting. Finally there’s Woody Allen as C.W. Briggs where Allen is miscast in a role that requires a much stronger personality where Allen brings a different spin on his persona but doesn’t really put a lot of effort into his character while he and Hunt have no chemistry in the scenes they have with each other.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a terrible film from Woody Allen despite some of its technical moments and Charlize Theron’s supporting performance. While there are moments that are worth watching, it’s not enough due to its lack of suspense while the humor feels flat. In the end, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a misguided and underwhelming film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

© thevoid99 2013

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