I went to the movie theater this afternoon expecting to be underwhelmed by Scoop. Happily, the film exceeded expectations, at least a little bit. It's nothing heavy, nothing deep -- and not anywhere as good as any number of real Allen masterpieces -- but it's also completely enjoyable as a light, bantering comedy. There's something kind of simple and sweet about it. "Cute" was the word I heard from people in the audience as they were walking out after the show. It doesn't feel like Allen set out to create a masterpiece here, it feels like he wanted to make a little comedy and have fun doing it. Compared to just about everything Hollywood is producing, Allen's stuff has a tendency to charm. Even the fluffy stuff. These days it's just refreshing to go to a movie made by an actual human being.
Action / Comedy / Crime / Mystery
Action / Comedy / Crime / Mystery
We begin in a church, where a bold and fearless English journalist and reporter named Joe Strombel is being eulogized. Afterward, a group of his colleagues are in a bar, drinking and reminiscing, and they toast to Joe, wherever he is.Cut to the barge of the dead ferrying recently deceased to their destination. Aboard is Joe Strombel (Ian McShane), trying to bribe the ferryman. He strikes up a conversation with another deceased soul on the ferry, Jane Cook, now former secretary to Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), son of an English lord. Joe mentions that he died of a coronary thrombosis. Jane, however, believes she was murdered... by Lyman himself. Jane tells Joe hat she was getting suspicious that Lyman was in fact a serial killer known to English police as the Tarot Card killer. Joe wrote a case about these murders when they first began, and wonders why Jane suspects Lyman.Jane says that at the last murder, a cufflink was found-- an expensive Art Deco. Lyman had these exact cufflink models... and before Jane died, she noticed he'd lost one of them. Jane phoned her lawyer for advice on whether to report it, and heard a faint click on the phone line, as if someone had been listening in. Later that day, she'd had a cup of tea, and she died very suddenly shortly afterward, leading her to suspect that her tea had been poisoned. This fascinates Joe, and he's a little sad that he got the 'scoop' on Lyman, but now that he's dead, he can't tell the story to others.At the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, a film director named Tinsley is arriving, and at the door to his room is a young American journalism student named Sondra Pransky (Scarlet Johannsen). Pransky is very excited at meeting Tinsley in person and asks to interview him. Although tired and still busy, Tinsley agrees. But Pransky, young and still naive, doesn't get the interview because Tinsley gets her drunk, even seduces her, but her intoxication makes her fall asleep and when she wakes up, as she tells a close family friend later, he was on his way to Thailand. Although her friend, Vivian (Romola Garai), tries to console and reassure her, Pransky is still unhappy about blowing the story.Meanwhile, Joe Strombel has been moping about the death barge, and sits on the edge of the deck. When he's satisfied nobody is looking, he tips over into the River Styx, and swims away.Pransky goes with Vivian and her little brother to see a stage show. One of the acts in the show is a magician with the stage name, Splendini (Woody Allen). Splendini's act blends illusion with comedy, and he speaks obsequiously but the audience enjoys his performance.Splendini calls for a volunteer, and Pransky is selected from the audience to come on stage. After some small talk, Splendini puts Pransky into a prop box that he says will 'agitate her molecules and split them apart,' before he 'puts her back together.'The trick goes off without a hitch, except for Pransky: while she's in the box, oblivious to what's going on outside, Joe Strombel appears to her and tells her the scoop about the Tarot Card murder case, but he's only able to say Peter Lyman's name before he disappears, pulled back onto the ferry to meet his destiny. Meanwhile, Splendini opens the box to show Pransky standing inside, slowly waving her hand around the box's interior. She's at a loss for words as to what she saw, which Splendini and the audience mistake as awe at how the trick worked, and he sends her back to her seat to a round of applause.Later, in her room, Pransky googles the Tarot Card killer. She sees that he preys on prostitutes, and has recently claimed a tenth victim after going off the radar a year ago. He always strikes in different parts of London, and leaves a tarot card on his victims-- usually the Hangman card. She then googles Joe Strombel, reading about his distinguished career for a London newspaper and his fearlessness in pursuing a story.Pransky goes back to the stage show site and asks to speak to Splendini, whose real name is Sidney Waterman. Pransky tells him about a spirit appearing in the box while she was inside, which Waterman hears with skepticism. Pransky insists that there is, or rather was, a Joe Strombel, and she googled him, and read about how he died three days ago, and that he was a journalist, like she is a journalism student. She asks Waterman to put her back in the box, where she hopes she can re-establish contact.Waterman, perhaps a little reluctantly, puts Pransky back in the 'dematerializer' box, where she tries to talk to Strombel and convince him to tell her more about the story. But after several minutes, nothing happens, and the cynical Waterman tries to send Pransky on her way, thinking she's a little crazy.But just then, Strombel suddenly appears, asking Pransky to write down some details. Waterman stares in shocked amazement as he watches Strombel give Pransky details on the Tarot Card murder case, how all his victims were prostitutes with short brunette hair. Strombel tells Pransky that Lyman is a well-respected aristocrat with connections, meaning she can't go to the police without solid proof, because otherwise, he's above reproach; also, if he sniffs out any suspicion on him, he'll become impossible to trap. Strombel tells Pranskky that Lyman might have poisoned his own secretary because he suspected she was catching on to him. Pransky must pursue the story first, on her own, without police aid, and then break it only when she can prove the suspicion. Strombel tells Pransky that this story can change her life if she has the courage to pursue it, but she must be careful, because lives are in the balance, including her own. Looking nervous, Strombel says his time is up and he must go. Death appears and takes Strombel, disappearing right after.Pransky is determined to break the story, and she needs Waterman's help... exactly what Waterman is now too scared to give. He does small time card and coin tricks, and has no idea how to help a journalism student pursue a real, big-time story. He tries to convince Pransky to go to the police, only to realize what would happen to her if she accused a well-respected lord's son of being a serial killer, based on a lead from a dead man's spirit.Pransky is staking out a corporate skyscraper hoping to spot Lyman, even though she isn't certain what he looks like. But Pransky is sure it's Lyman who walks out of the building. He gets into a cab, and Pransky hurries to another waiting cab, in order to follow him.The cab drops Lyman off at an antiques gallery, and Waterman asks Pransky if she's satisfied that she's gotten a look at him... but just then they find out that the man isn't Lyman at all. Waterman takes Pransky outside and tells her that she should live her life without further embarrassments, and that he needs to go home.Pransky has coffee with Vivian, who tells her that she hears that Lyman swims at the governor's club; a posh, exclusive private gentleman's club. Vivian's father has a business partner who is a member, and members are allowed to bring guests in.Pransky rounds up Waterman again and takes him to the club. At the pool, they spot a man swimming by himself, and Pransky is unsure how to meet him. Waterman suggests she pretend to get a cramp in the pool and feign drowning, and if Lyman is the gentleman he's purported as, he'll come to her aid.Waterman goes to get coffee, and Pransky decided to try his plan. She gets into the pool and starts floundering and gasping in the water; her head going under a few times. Lyman hurries over and swims her to the edge so she can sit. Pransky thanks him fawningly, saying she wasn't a good swimmer and her leg cramped. Lyman notes he hasn't seen her face before and asks if she's a new member. Lyman knows Jack Fulton, the business partner of Vivian's father. Pransky decides to introduce herself as Jade Julliard Spence, part of a wealthy family from Palm Beach.Waterman's plan pays off as Lyman invites her to a garden party his father is throwing that weekend at his estate. Pransky is glad to accept, and as Waterman returns, Pransky introduces him as her father. Waterman isn't pleased about the idea and still thinks Pransky is taking too many wild chances, but still agrees to help her.Sunday comes, and Pransky and Waterman arrive at the Lyman estate for the garden party. Lyman introduces them to his father, Lord Lyman (Julian Glover), who notes their lack of social graces and hapless attempts to converse, but stays silent. He suggests that Lyman show Pransky and Waterman around the estate.While showing them around, Lyman makes further conversation and eventually Pransky takes one of the offered bones, asking if Lyman will show her how to fly fish. While they're on the lake, Waterman does a few card tricks for other guests and further bungles attempts at conversation, showing his ineptitude, but in a way that nobody catches on.Pransky makes further small talk as she walks through the gardens with Lyman and finally drops a hint by saying she's into New Age items, such as crystals and tarot. Lyman says he's more scientific minded, and given his background of privilege, it's seemed a given that he's destined to enter politiccs. When Pransky mentions she also likes to dance, Lyman offers to take her dancing. Pransky looks at Lyman with another fawning glance, and the chemistry and sparks of attraction between the two are clear.Lyman then says he'll have his new secretary send Pransky a list of Chinese restaurants, since she's said she likes Chinese food, and mentions his previous secretary, a young woman, died suddenly of a blood clot. When Pransky curiously asks if an autopsy was done to confirm this, Lyman skillfully and quickly changes the subject,During this time, Waterman is snooping around private rooms of the estate, including Lyman's bedroom. He finds an envelope of some kind in Lyman's bag, and carefully secretes it in an inside jacket pocket.Pransky continues to talk with Lyman and the two start to become infatuated with one another.One of Lyman's cars drops Pransky and Waterman off, and the two start to argue, at first, over Waterman's endless babble, and then over whether Lyman has killed anyone, which both of them believe he hasn't. When Pransky mentions that Lyman offered to take her dancing, Waterman describes this as a way of gathering clues, and then shows her one-- the envelope Waterman swiped from Lyman's overnight bag contains part of a name scrawled on it: Betty G. Pransky takes the news skeptically, saying this woman could be anyone.Waterman meets some of Lyman's associates for a poker game he's been invited to. Lyman arrives late due to having been bogged down at work, and Waterman is doing well, being a skilled player.Meanwhile, Pransky is discussing her infatuation with Lyman, with Vivian, downplaying it. She stops suddenly, seeing a newspaper sign saying that the Tarot killer has struck once more. Reading the article with Waterman, they see the murder victim was a short-haired brunette prostitute, just like all the previous ones, and the same tarot card, the Hangman, was left by her body. Lyman arrived at the poker game at a sufficient hour that Waterman believes would have given him plenty of time to kill the prostitute, if he did in fact commit the murder. Pransky knows she needs to dig deeper, despite her growing crush on Lyman; she needs to get a closer look at where he lives.Lyman shows Pransky around his house, away from the estate; tastefully decorated with several art works Pransky recognizes from her college studies. Downstairs, is a climate-controlled room with many rare musical instruments.Pransky calls the room romantic, and Lyman suddenly leans in and steals a kiss. Pransky smiles at him.Waterman is putting on another magic show as Splendini, and is putting another woman from the audience into his "dematerializer" box. When he opens the box to show that she's disappeared, Joe Strombel leans out and urgently tells Waterman in a hushed voice to remember the number sequence 16, 21, 12. The audience thinks this is part of the trick and laughs in appreciation.Pransky is stepping out of Lyman's shower after having had sex with him. She notes the smell of his aftershave, Yardley, which he's used exclusively since his teenage years. Lyman decides to get some champagne and tells Pransky to stay in his bedroom; he's also offering to make eggs for the both of them. This is exactly what Pransky has been waiting for, and she starts snooping around the room. Lyman comes back to find Pransky looking through a photo album, looking at a photograph of a woman with short brunette hair-- Lyman's mother, who he says was a difficult woman. Lyman asks Pransky to stay the night, but she backs out with a hastily concocted cover story about her father not feeling that well.Waterman and Lyman meet for a drink the next day and are comparing their finds. Waterman thinks the number sequence Strombel gave him is the combination to a safe. Pransky realizes that this might be the combination to the room where Lyman keeps his instruments, and asks Waterman for the number sequence, which Waterman suddenly doesn't want to give out,Arriving back at Vivian's house, Pransky finds a bouquet of flowers and an invitation to a party at Lyman's house on Saturday. Pransky admits to Vivian that she's falling in love with Lyman.Saturday night at Lyman's party. Pransky talks with some guests while Waterman shows a few others one of his card tricks. Pransky takes him aside and presses him to go downstairs and try to get into the music room while she distracts Lyman. Waterman reluctantly does so, but struggles to remember the combination until he finally gets it right and enters the room, while Pransky tries to maintain her composure staying near Lyman. While he looks around, a butler gets two wine bottles, notices the door to the music room ajar, and closes and locks it, trapping Waterman inside.Pransky finally excuses herself and creeps downstairs to find Waterman locked in the room. He gives her the combination and she comes inside. Meanwhile, Lyman asks his butler if he's seen where Pransky has gone and he mentions he thought he saw her go downstairs (his bathroom is upstairs). They manage to get out of the room, without finding anything, before Lyman sees them standing outside. The guests are preparing to leave, and Lyman sweet-talks Pransky into staying the night.While Lyman is sleeping, Pransky sneaks back to the music room. Hidden underneath the bell of one of the horns is several decks of tarot cards. She makes it back upstairs just as Lyman notices her out of bed, holding a glass of milk, which she says might help her sleep. Lyman suddenly drops a question, would Jade consider staying in England with him past the end of the summer, instead of returning home.Later, Lyman takes Pransky to a park and gives her a bracelet as a birthday gift. He mentions he has to go out of town for a few days, but will take her out for a celebration when he returns. The gesture leaves Pransky feeling very guilty about herself and her investigation, and when Strombel appears before her at Vivian's house to encourage her to keep digging, she accuses him of wanting to be right so he can get credit for his last big scoop.Waterman takes Pransky out for Indian food as a belated birthday gift, and Waterman is talking about how he can't live in London because English traffic keeps to the left, not the right, and it makes him frightened he's going to die in a car crash. Pransky suddenly notices Lyman walking down the street-- despite having told her he was out of town. She insists on following him from a distance.Peter has enough of a lead that Pransky and Waterman take the wrong path at a fork, and they lose him. But nearby, there are suddenly calls for help: a woman has been strangled, and a tarot card was found near her body.It's in the newspaper the next day; the victim's name was Elizabeth Gibson, a short-haired brunette woman. Reading about it, Pransky and Waterman flip flop further on whether they should speak to someone. If the police wouldn't believe them without more proof, Pransky wonders about speaking to another journalist; Vivian's father has a friend who works for a local London paper, The Observer.The Observer's editor, Mr. Malcolm (Charles Dance) sits Pransky and Waterman down for a lengthy lecture on the folly of making an accusation against Lyman, along with the fact that he knew Strombel well and knows that he would never have shared a tip with any reliability, with anyone else, especially a student. He then lets drop a bombshell that the real Tarot Card killer has been caught: a handyman named Henry Banks who has confessed to two additional murders, his fingerprints and DNA evidence match, and he knew things never disclosed by the press that only the killer would know. All the papers are going to press with the story as they speak.Pransky is relieved as she reads one of the paper reports, and feels remorseful over having lied to Lyman. She's now looking forward to pursuing her romantic relationship with a man she's come to love, if he can forgive her for her deceptions.Alone with Lyman at his father's estate, Pransky is enjoying some romantic alone time, as they have the estate to themselves for a while. Lyman confesses he lied about being out of town, saying he had to attend to helping Lord Lyman with a business matter that they both wanted to keep private from the press. It bothers him, because he dislikes dishonesty, as he tells Pransky.This shakes Pransky's courage, but finally she confesses the whole truth to Lyman about who she and Waterman really are, and that she had heard a crazy story and got a crazy notion of making a name for herself, since she and Lyman hadn't met yet. To her astonishment and relief, Lyman finds the story very funny, saying it's made his day, that she would have thought he was some kind of fiend. When she lets drop she knows about the tarot deck in the music room, he says it was a Victorian deck that was intended to be a gift for her, since she told him that she was into mystical new age items like tarot.So foolish does Pransky feel about this news, and relieved that Lyman still loves her, that she argues fiercely in Lyman's defense the next day at Vivian's home, when Waterman tells her that he doesn't let Lyman off the hook-- he still feels Lyman, not Banks, is the one who killed Elizabeth Gibson. Betty is often short for Elizabeth, and "Betty G" was written on that envelope Waterman found. Waterman thinks Lyman was being blackmailed by Gibson over seeing prostitutes, and it would destroy his reputation if he was found out. Pransky won't hear it. She tells Waterman to go back to his card tricks.At the stage venue, Strombel appears to Waterman; Strombel gave Waterman the idea that Lyman killed Gibson in the hopes of pinning the crime on the Tarot Card killer, because he knew Pransky wouldn't listen to him anymore. Strombel also says that he's used every trick he knows to cheat death, and he doubts he'll be able to sneak away to see Waterman or Pransky again. He asks Waterman to look after Pransky, because Strombel admires her spirit, and also suggests Waterman look to see if a card is missing from the Tarot deck in Lyman's music room.Waterman goes to the building where Gibson lived and was killed, and asks questions of people, posing as a reporter. One woman tells him that everyone called Gibson, 'Betty,' and she used to be a long haired blonde, but cut it short and dyed it black, probably to please a regular client. One of whom was "some rich kid" named Peter Yardley.Frantic, Waterman calls Pransky at the Lyman estate to warn her, and she's having none of it. But perhaps she should: Lyman, in another room, picks up an extension and listens. He returns to Pransky, who says she's going to change before their next romantic interlude, and she kisses him happily.Waterman takes a taxi to Lyman's house and tells the housekeeper that Pransky asked him to pick up a red sweater that she believes she left there. When the housekeeper goes up to find it, Waterman sneaks down to the music room and finds a key under the French horn. The housekeeper catches him leaving the room, which shows Waterman knew the combination, but she doesn't stop him from leaving the house. Instead, she calls Lyman to report it.Waterman goes back to Gibson's building and finds that the key he took from the music room opens the door to Gibson's apartment. Lyman had the key to her apartment. That's all Waterman needs to know.Lyman takes Pransky onto a rowboat to go on the lake at his estate. Right about the middle of the lake, he puts up the oars, and he and Pransky start to talk. She asks what he's thinking about at the moment, and he says that life is ironic and tragic; he met Pransky by saving her from drowning, found her very enchanting, and now she has to drown.Lyman confesses to Pransky that he killed Betty Gibson, just as Waterman has suspected, and has probably acquired enough proof by now to take to the authorities. Lyman had been seeing Gibson many times over the years, and she finally learned who he really was, and began blackmailing him; a constant demand for money that he felt he had to put a stop to. He studied the Tarot Card killer case, and arranged to make Gibson's murder look like a reappearance by the serial killer.Pransky starts to recoil in fear as Lyman tells her everything, and tells Lyman that Waterman will know if Lyman kills her. Lyman answers that her death will be a drowning; arranged to look like a boating accident, while he'll arrange for another accident for Waterman later; a two-bit vaudevillain named Splendini will not be treated as a major murder case.Pransky screams for help, and Lyman simply leans back and waits-- his estate is very large and secluded, and nobody is around for miles.Waterman, in the meantime, has been driving like mad in a tiny little car to reach Pransky... but loses control of the vehicle on the back country's twisting roads due to traffic moving on the left side, and crashes, just as he'd always feared he would.Lyman finally reaches over and grabs Pransky, grappling with her. Despite her struggles, he throws her off the boat into the lake and starts to row back to shore. He watches as Pransky flounders in the water and her head goes under the surface.Lyman rows back to the dock and then kicks the boat away back toward the lake's interior, before he hurries into the mansion, and calls the police. Feigning crying, he reports a terrible boating accident at his estate, and a woman has drowned.Police arrive, and an officer comes into the house where Lyman is talking with the investigating detective (Anthony Stewart Head), and reports that the other officers in the area think they know where the body is. Lyman tells his cover story and explains that he met Pransky by rescuing her from drowning in the club pool, and she was a weak swimmer.But no sooner does Lyman say this when he hears Pransky's voice calling to him, and she comes into the room, dripping wet but quite alive. Pransky tells Lyman that she was faking being a poor swimmer at the club, in order to get his attention; in reality, she's an excellent swimmer who captained a community swim team in her native Brooklyn.After Lyman is arrested, Pransky writes her story for The Observer. Mr. Malcolm is very pleased with Pransky's investigative journalism and tells her he's proud to run the story in his paper. Pransky announces she needs to share credit with both Joe Strombel and Sidney Waterman. She's learned now that Waterman is dead, and says, half to herself, that wherever Waterman is now, she'll never forget him.A final scene shows Waterman riding the barge of the dead with some other passengers. He strikes up some small talk and starts to do a card trick, 'if he has time.' One passenger remarks, 'I believe we have eternity.'
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June 30, 2016 at 01:58 PM