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Laramie Movie Scope:

Woody Allen's dark tale of love and obsession

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 14, 1998 -- Woody Allen explores the dark side of love and the American obsession with celebrities in his latest film "Celebrity." Although Allen himself does not appear in the film, his alter ego does, and that is writer Lee Simon played by Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V").

Branagh even adopts many of Woody Allen's speech mannerisms, the nervousness, the stuttering, and so on, to make it more obvious. He's quite good, but he's no Woody Allen. Simon writes magazine articles about celebrities, but is obviously quite dissatisfied with his life. He wants to be taken seriously as a novelist. He also tries his hand at movie screenplays.

In addition to being dissatisfied with his writing career, he is dissatisfied with his wife, Robin, played by Judy Davis ("A Passage to India"). It is all part of his mid-life crisis. Naturally, he leaves her and breaks her heart, and takes up with another woman, eventually leaving her as well, but she takes an exquisite measure of revenge on him.

Meanwhile, Simon's wife, manages to land on her feet, falling in love with TV producer Tony Gardella (Joe Mantegna). Her ex-husband Lee Simon ends up alone and worse off than he was before, while she is much happier than she was when she was married to him.

Along the way there are some very funny scenes, including Simon trying to get Leonardo DiCaprio's attention about Simon's movie script during a wild night in Atlantic City. Another funny scene has Judy Davis trying to learn oral sex techniques from a hooker by using a banana. Another has various relatives of a celebrity trying to get favors from him at a party. Finally, he says, "What am I, the Godfather?" Indeed, much of the film is about people trying to get celebrities to do favors for them so they can cash in on all that power. Many of the people in the film are self-centered and selfish.

Although there are some funny scenes in the film and some good one-liners, the overall theme of the film is depressing. Allen is saying love is a matter of luck and people are basically selfish. Those that aren't, like Davis, are self-defeating because of religious guilt. Like other Allen films, the movie is set in New York and it is peopled by artists, actors, writers and the like. They are interesting, but I don't know how much in common they have with people in the rest of the country. There are also numerous celebrities in the film, including Mary Jo and Joey Buttafuoco, Donald Trump, Winona Ryder, Melanie Griffith, basketball player Anthony Mason and others.

All Woody Allen movies are, essentially, a series of vignettes attached to a theme, but this one seems to have a weaker narrative line than most and it doesn't seem to work nearly as well as some of his better recent films, such as "Mighty Aphrodite." Good performances by Branagh, Davis and others help raise it up a bit. It should also be noted this is an adult film laced with numerous obscenities and sexual situations. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1998 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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