Poor Helena (Gemma Jones). Her husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), has just left her to go pursue a more youthful existence. Psychologically unstable, she begins visiting a psychic, who gives her exactly what she wants to hear, much to the satisfaction of her daughter Sally (Naomi Watts), who is falling in love with her boss Greg (Antonio Banderas) as she deals with her own struggling marriage with failed author Roy (Josh Brolin), who believes that the lovely Dia (Frieda Pinto), who lives across the street, is his muse. Bring in Alfie's new actress/prostitute girlfriend Charmaine (Lucy Punch), and you've got one wonderfully kooky and messed up web of people!
There's a lot that goes right with Woody Allen's latest. The dialogue is witty and very sharp, and the screenplay weaves together all of the film's many subplots very well. On that note, each of the characters and their stories were very interesting, intriguing, and fleshed out, making it all very fun to watch. Oh, and the narration wasn't unbearable like it was LAST TIME! In fact, it was quite effective!
Oh, and the acting is very good as well. Gemma Jones is wonderful, giving her character the perfect amount of sincerity and parody, and Lucy Punch is hysterical (and surprisingly multi-dimensional) as the over-the-top hooker. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins are also very, very good, making their characters both very funny and very sympathetic. Pauline Collins hams it up in her small but crucial role as the psychic, delivering some of the film's best laughs.
So even though on paper, the film does everything right, there's still something so vital missing. It's hard to place exactly what's wrong with it, besides the fact that nothing quite feels new. Structurally, it ends up being really similar to Vicky Cristina Barcelona - for example, remember the recurring guitar tune that made Rebecca Hall swoon in VCB? Well, it exists this time too. Except, instead of Albeniz, it's Boccherini; and instead of Hall, it's Brolin.
And, really, the films are different enough that this might not have been a problem - what the film is truly missing is the spice and flair of some of Allen's past work (especially VCB). By the end of the film, even though everything in it was good (and by no means boring), you sort of forget about it simply because it was just so flavorless. It's very well made, very well acted and very enjoyable, but overall, really nothing outstanding.