Celebrity


             Admittedly I came late to the Woody Allen bandwagon. I didn't get
     turned on to his films until I was in college in Boston but I quickly made
     up for lost time. They were a staple of the revival houses in Cambridge
     and I often went to see
BANANAS and SLEEPER and so on. I'll admit,
     I didn't "get"
ANNIE HALL when I first saw it, but that was before my
     first real adult relationship. Six months later, when I saw it again, I
     more than got it. To me,
MANHATTAN ranks as one of the great films
     of the latter-half of this century. Maybe because it also reflects my own
     love affair with New York City. Over the years, I've gone along with the
     Woodman, suffering through some of the lesser efforts (anyone remember
       SEPTEMBER?), marveling at the ingenuity of a ZELIG and basking in the
     intelligence and skill of a
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. But lately,
     something has happened. Ever since
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY,
     Woody's lost me. He seems to have run out of things to say and the
     sight of him romancing younger women has begun to become
     uncomfortable. I hate to say it, but ever since his split with Mia Farrow
     he seems to have lost his muse. The films of the last few years
     have been decidedly minor and often more scatological. Woody Allen
     has lost his edge.

             All this is a long-winded introduction to his latest feature
     
CELEBRITY, a discourse on our modern culture and its obsession with
     fame. Yawn! Sven Nykvist's black-and- white cinematography is okay,
     but it lacks the depth of contrast that the great Gordon Willis captured
     in
MANHATTAN. There really seems to be no reason for the story not
     to have been shot in color. And the couple at the center are now so
     typical of the Allen neurotics that they almost border on cliché. Judy
     Davis does what she can to breathe life into a role she nailed the first
     time in
HUSBANDS AND WIVES. At least she is not as shrill as she
     was in
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY and she does have an arc to her
     character who goes from teacher of Chaucer to TV reporter.

             Other critics have carped about Kenneth Branagh's performance
     as her ex-husband as he seems to be channeling Woody Allen, down
     to the stutter and vocal inflections. Actually, Branagh didn't really annoy
     me, but then I've always had a bit of a soft spot for him. As is typical,
     there are several outstanding supporting performances in a cast packed
     with blink and you miss them roles: Patti D'Arbanville nearly
     unrecognizable in a black wig; the luscious Charlize Theron whose
     primary job is to look beautiful; Famke Janssen as a book editor who
     falls for Branagh; Melanie Griffith as a sexy screen siren; and Winona
     Ryder as a wanna-be actress who also gets involved with Branagh.
     The best performance in the film, though, is delivered by Leonardo
     DiCaprio who slyly sends up his contemporaries as a temperamental
     actor with a penchant for trashing hotel rooms and sleeping with models.
     DiCaprio is onscreen for maybe 10 minutes but the film comes alive.
     It's too bad Woody Allen didn't decide to make a film about his
     character. That would have been a more interesting choice.

             As it is
CELEBRITY says little new about its topic. The jokes for
     the most part seem stale and overly familiar. Maybe I've spent too
     many hours watching Allen's films. Maybe I've become jaundiced in my
     viewpoint. Or maybe Woody needs a collaborator. His best films
     from
ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN to BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
     were written with others (Marshall Brickman in the case of the two
     former films, Douglas McGrath in the latter). That's not to say Allen
     solo hasn't produced some gems, but they are outweighed by the
     near misses and outright flops. As I write this, he is already at work
     on his next film and I can tell you one thing. I'll be there to see it,
     hoping that that one has more meat than
CELEBRITY.



                                            Rating:     C
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.