May 25, 2024

RIFKIN’S FESTIVAL (2021) – Woody Allen minus the juice

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Rating: ⭐ 1/2

Woody Allen’s struggles with the persistent and repeated accusations of child molestation of his daughter Dylan Farrow is beginning to take a toll on his films. The most recent resurface of the accusation fueled by the popularity of the “MeToo” movement and generation was the most damaging. Despite having the courts finding his not guilty of the charges, the recent reemergence of the subject in 2019 has resulted in him being shunned by Hollywood with practically nobody willing to work on his movies anymore. Before 2019, being in a Woody Allen movie was like a privileged and he often have big name stars lining to be in his films even for small bit parts.

Watching Woody Allen’s latest film, Rifkin’s Festival, it becomes obvious that he was unable to get even one big name star to be in his cast. We have elative unknowns Wallace Shawn (whose most famous role was probably providing the voice of Rex in Toy Story) and Gina Gershon (whose last major movie was in Showgirls) playing the lead role of a married couple attending a film festival in San Sabastian in Spain. The setting, theme, characters behaviour and dialogue here is familiar Woody Allen territory. However, there is something very sad and missing in all these. The acting and delivery of the lines for one thing leaves much to be desired. Wallace Shawn is so unconvincing as the troubled husband seeking solace with a young pretty doctor while suspecting his wife of infidelity. He utters the Woody Allen words like he was rehearsing and somehow the Woody Allen humour just comes across flat. It is like watching a poor version of a Woody Allen movie. Gina Gershon at least still looks beautiful, but her character is very cardboard material, and comes across as very one dimensional and unsympathetic. The picturesque San Sabastian is probably the only thing in the movie that felt honest and real.

Rifkin’s Festival is a pale reflection of what a genius Woody Allen was or is probably still capable of. It is a sad testament to the damage done by his personal life problems. Without the benefit of the stars, and the usually brilliantly written script, Rifkin’s Festival becomes a tedious sitting even with its short running time of one and a half hours. As a fan, I will still look forward to future projects but hope Woody Allen can come out of his current slump and reemerge as strong as ever. At a ripe old age of 86, he may not have much opportunity to turn the tide around.

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