A dive into television really wasn’t what I was expecting from director Woody Allen. Ushering us through a piece of film more or less once a year for roughly half a century is no small feat, so to throw Crisis in Six Scenes at us, a six-episode comedy for Amazon Prime, is simply surplus to requirement. Musings on the Vietnam war alongside all the expected Allen tropes can be found within, but it’s far from his best work, spiralling into self-parody at times and even becoming rather bored with itself in a few pockets throughout.
Allen stars alongside a cast including Miley Cyrus and Elaine May, his latter-day ensembles never quite as impressive as the earlier years of his career, but Crisis in Six Scenes has enough to get by on. Allen feels like he’s fumbling across the screen, struggling to deliver lines at the pace required of such a series. His direction hasn’t faltered all that much and most of the scenes feel more or less like a typical project of his. The acting on display is dicey though, a real shame too since I’ve always enjoyed seeing him direct himself throughout his various cinematic pieces. There’s just not enough depth to his character, nor is there any to be found within the various supporting roles either.
The rest of the cast fare a little better, specifically Elaine May. The majority of the lighter, enjoyable moments feature around her character development. Her build-up and characteristics are forgotten more often than not, but the vast amount of jokes are fed to May and in turn, we receive some golden moments. A book group of elderly women addicted to the teachings of General Mao, coupled with her dealings and chemistry with Allen and Cyrus make her the true core of the series, one that is overworked in trying to keep it all from crumbling down.
I remember reading reviews for this and seeing that they were overwhelmingly lukewarm or negative towards this six-episode piece. Although I’m not too keen on this piece myself, I can’t quite get my head around the reviews that completely slated and deconstructed the piece. An entire series that you can watch in one go, a sitting less than three hours for an entire season of television with a handful of decent laughs to it is rather good. For those looking for a modern-day Allen fixture, then Crisis in Six Scenes is certainly a lot stronger than most of his other outputs around this time. No episode stands out as an incredible feat, nor do they sink to the depths of depravity you’d be forgiven for expecting in a case like this.
Subplots left loose and unfinished, poorly wrapped up or brushed aside to move on to something completely different. It’s like Allen has too much he wants to show, and with too much going on at once it creates for a project that has little interest whatsoever. Snippets of golden moments, a handful of lines here and there that are some of the funniest stuff Allen has written in years, all bogged down in a farcical affair that feels dated and poorly structured. Still, with a few changes to the pacing and a refinement of its performances, Crisis in Six Scenes could’ve been largely better. The finished product falls short, but is far from unwatchable.