Rifkin’s Festival

By Joanna Langfield

Well, the scenery is nice.

Woody Allen’s “newest”, a ruefully somewhat comic look at love and life in mid-age, has been sitting on a shelf, waiting out the pandemic, I suppose. No matter what the reason, this one still feels dusty and sad.

Wallace Shawn steps in to the part of Rifkin, a part Allen would have undoubtedly played himself years ago. Mort, the intellectual film critic, is married to Sue, a rather luscious PR lady, hungry not just for success but for her client, the Euro-suave Philippe, who promises to solve the crisis in the middle east with his next film. While Philippe and Sue are playing footsie under the table, Mort is falling in love with the beautiful young doctor he met while kvetching about his latest possible malady. Interspersed are some re-creations, or salutes, or something, of classic film scenes both Mort and Allen love. We know this because not only has Woody used the story line here before, he’s also acknowledged some of these “films greatest hits” before, too.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with repeating one’s self, the effort (and I use that term loosely) feels pale and almost rote. Shawn handles what he’s given nicely, as does Gina Gershon, but even the San Sebastian views feel flat, making those of us who’ve appreciated Allen’s appreciation of some of the greatest cities in the world, as well as some of the greatest actors, yearn for more.