Comedic auteur Woody Allen returns to his hilariously quirky roots with Scoop ˆ a contemporary romance written, directed and co-starring the bumbling multi-hyphenate.
In the film, which takes place in London, a young American student journalist named Sondra (Scarlett Johansson) is visiting friends when she mistakenly stumbles upon what could perhaps be the biggest "scoop" of her life. When she and gal pal Vivian (Romola Garai) attend a performance being given by a traveling magician (Allen as Sid Waterman), Sondra is summoned onstage, only to be used as part of Sid's "disappearing person" trick.
Sid steers Sondra into a box where, unexpectedly, she meets the driven spirit of a recently deceased newspaperman („Deadwood‚s‰ Ian McShane) who confides in her the possible identity of the city‚s deadly Tarot Card Killer, who is currently on the loose. Using her newfound, beyond-the-grave information, Sondra recruits Sid to help her track down Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) the handsome English diplomat who she believes is the elusive killer.
Once Sondra secures Peter's attention through a fake-drowning scheme at his exclusive health club, a relationship quickly blossoms between the two. Peter is attracted to Sondra‚s quirky American sensibility and Sondra to Peter‚s dapper English charm. Sondra allows Peter to court her, as she does, after all, want to uncover the biggest scoop of her life. She wants to know whether Peter is, in fact, the murderer.
While the plot of Scoop seems silly in its description, it translates fairly well to the screen, mostly because it keeps the audience guessing along the way. When we think we‚ve stumbled onto the truth about Peter, the picture changes and, ultimately, keeps the guessing going a little bit longer.
Also noteworthy is Allen himself, who is truly one of the film's big shining bright points. While he doesn‚t really do anything special outside of being himself, he‚s still a load of fun to watch. Whether he, as Sid, is trying to help Sondra hatch a hair-brained scheme or merely driving down an English country road in a tiny car, Allen is simply hilarious. At one point in the film, he even tells Sondra that he could survive on a diet of bread and never gain weight because his anxiety acts as exercise, which therefore contributes to his continually svelte physique.
Acting alongside Allen in the film are Johansson and Jackman who, while fine alone, seem to form a very awkward chemistry from the start. The dialogue between them, while written well if this was a stage play, doesn‚t translate all that great onscreen. While we‚re supposed to believe that they‚re falling hard for each other, the pace of their relationship coupled with shaky dialogue makes only for many awkward moments.
McShane, on the other hand, as recently deceased journalist Joe (who constantly tries to escape a literal "Death" to leak information to Sondra) is brilliant and entertaining each and every moment he appears in the film.
Despite the awkward pairing of Johansson and Jackman, Scoop is a good bet if you enjoy Allen's lighter side.