I love it when movie news comes with a healthy dose of secrecy. And there’s nothing more secretive than this: Joaquin Phoenix has just signed on to the play the lead role in Woody Allen’s next film.
And, as is typical with announcements involving Woody Allen, we know absolutely nothing more than that. No idea about what the role is, or what the movie is, or if the movie even has a title (I’m assuming it does have a title, but for all we know Allen hasn’t even gotten that far). According to Deadline, the film might start shooting in July, but who knows if that’s true, or just a part of some Woody Allen false flag media blitz.
And now for the required “Where are they now?” bit of context. Allen’s current project is Magic in the Moonlight, about an Englishman wrapped up in some kind of crime caper in early 20th century France, involving various Jazz Age luxuries like high fashion, large mansions and people expelling their lungs into coiled pieces of brass. Phoenix’s current wheeling and dealing is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, in which he plays a pot-infused ’70s P.I. chasing down his ex-girlfriend in the mean streets of Los Angeles.
Alright, that’s out of the way. Now onto the fun part.
Blue Jasmine aside, Allen doesn’t regularly handle dark material.
Phoenix, as a general rule, only handles extremely dark material.
Together at last!
Granted, there is a chance that Allen has another Blue Jasmine-style mental anguish semi-comedy in the works, and he’s hand-selected Phoenix for his astounding ability to seem horribly deranged. But the much more interesting option would be Phoenix as the typical Woody Allen surrogate in a charming romantic comedy. We’ve had Jason Biggs playing a faux-Woody Allen (Anything Else). We’ve had Larry David as a somehow older and surlier Woody Allen (whatever works). But rarely, if ever, do we see a dangerously dramatic actor ape Woody Allen for an entire running time.
This new Allen joint may well be that movie. Even better, it may well be that movie, starring an actor who seemingly fails to comprehend the meaning of the word “comedy.” Like that time Phoenix referred to The Master– you know, the one where he played a disturbed, brutally violent follower of a Scientology-like cult- as a hilarious comedy. “I laughed the entire time I was watching it.”
Or the mockumentary he made, I’m Still Here, which featured gut-busting scenes of Phoenix screaming at prostitutes, screaming at piles of narcotics and then screaming that he was going to empty his bowels on another guy’s chest.
(Note: If you’re in an environment averse to swear words, graphic sexual dialogue or racial slurs, maybe don’t press play below).
I would give anything to see that guy go for a totally straight-ahead Woody Allen comedy. But even if he doesn’t, Phoenix has a long and illustrious career ahead of him. At some point, he’ll have to do something with jokes in it.