here's today's bizarre thought. Mariel Hemingway is a couple of years older than Helen Hunt.Which may not mean much of anything in the scheme of things, but in the 22 years since Manhattan, Woody Allen's leading ladies have actually gotten younger.
There's a slightly creepy subtext to the Hemingway-Allen relationship in Manhattan, a 25-year age gap, but it's actually smaller than that between Allen and Hunt in The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion.
Let's just say it.
Woody Allen is too old to be playing romantic leads. It isn't just that he's 65, he's an old 65.
He has the face of someone you'd see getting the early-bird special at a Florida restaurant, not of someone you'd see making goo-goo eyes at Elizabeth Berkley or Helen Hunt. And ignore, for the moment, the fact that Hunt towers over him and looks as if she could knock him unconscious with a flick of her wrist.
Allen has been willing to use surrogates in recent years -- John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway, Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity -- and he should have used one here.
Indeed, "wisecracking insurance investigator" is a role that would have fit Cusack like a glove, and he's tall enough to play opposite Hunt without appearing to be in imminent physical danger.
The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion is one of Allen's 30s pastiches. The writer/director plays C.W. Briggs, a streetwise insurance investigator who gets tied up in a complicated jewel heist involving a sinister hypnotist (David Ogden Stiers) and Briggs's new supervisor, Hunt's efficiency expert, who's offended by everything from his wardrobe to his "hey, toots" approach to every secretary in the office.
It's an occasionally amusing film (Charlize Theron has a memorable bit doing a faint impression of Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep), and Allen's fondness for period music and detail serves him well here.
It's also not nearly as mean-spirited as last year's Small Time Crooks, where Allen's age wasn't an issue because he cast himself romantically opposite Elaine May, who's his contemporary. It didn't seem grotesque, the way it does when Theron's character throws herself at him.
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION written and directed by Woody Allen, produced by Letty Aronson, with Allen, Helen Hunt, David Ogden Stiers and Dan Aykroyd. A DreamWorks release. 100 minutes. For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 74. Rating: NN