Take The Money And Run: Rewatch. By Alif Majeed.
What’s Up Tiger Lily is generally considered as Woody Allen’s first movie, but that point is pretty moot. Sure, he did shoot additional scenes for the film and tinkered it to turn it into its present form. But it doesn’t change the fact that he was working on a pre-existing movie that was already there.
Take The Money And Run is that respect is the first original move he made. It is also the first time Woody Allen donned his famous triple role, i.e., acting, directing, and writing. Juggling all the three hats with ease time and again has been one of the most defining aspects of his career.
He could have chosen to make a simple enough movie about is about Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen), the world’s most inept bank robber. Which is what the film is about. But he mostly took that one line gag and turned it into a mockumentary complete with interviews, sound bites, and flashbacks about what makes the guy so useless as a robber.
Mockumentaries can often get a very tricky thing to pull off, especially when it comes to its execution. It has to flirt with a thin line of being convincing or not, and there is a point where you know its a farce. Some pull it off well like This is Spinal Tap and some, not so much. (Looking at you, I’m not there.)
Peter Jackson also managed to fool many people by initially billing Forgotten Silver, his mockumentary of a New Zealand filmmaker who invented many of the standard cinematic techniques used today as an actual documentary. The reason why he managed to do that is he played it straight. With Take the Money and Run, Woody Allen wants to leave no doubt in your mind that what you are watching is anything close to something real. He makes the gags as outrageous as possible to imagine it to be a true story. The trick then is probably not to look at it as a rockumentary but a fictional tale even if it hard to shake of its format.
Woody Allen also manages to throw in just enough gags to show the ineptitude of Virgil. It is not an understatement to call him a terrible bank robber, the extent to which the jokes are played out to make it look like he is truly worthy of that title. It indeed looks like this man can find a way to get caught even if he is alone in a room n a secluded island the key to which might be locked and kept in the very bank he tried to rob. Disastrously, of course.
Though it is a lot less funny than it thinks it is and the gags can be a hit and miss, the visual gags are there in abundance, and the movie also keeps the funny lines coming. Watch out for a memorable scene where Woody goes into a bank to rob it with only a gun and a piece of paper explaining the situation to the staff. Only to be thwarted as the staff gets into a debate about the ransom note, as they can’t figure out if they are being robbed with a gun or gub. It is a scene that escalates perfectly and sticks the landing well with Woody having an awkward conversation over the phone with his sweetheart explaining he might not be able to make it home for dinner.
Woody Allen would later go on to perfect the mockumentary format with movies like Zelig (about a mysterious loner in the 1920s) and Sweet and Lowdown (about the world’s second greatest Jazz Guitarist). But a lot of it that came started right here, from the movie where it all started. Some of the childhood flashback sequences also bring back memories to similar scenes in some of his later classics, like the childhood of Alvy Singer in Annie Hall. Those are enough reasons to seek out and watch this movie.
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