Singing for film nostalgia
Everyone Says I Love You
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton
At Wellington 8, 6:45 and 9:15 p.m.
A Woody Allen movie is something like a box of Cracker Jack there's always a surprise inside but you've got to be careful not to choke on it. Allen's latest attempt at nostalgic confection is the self-proclaimed musical-romance, Everyone Says I Love You. Littered with numbers from musicals of the '30s and '40s penned by such song smiths as Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter, the film lovingly revives a form long-touted as deceased by film historians. Allen's tongue-in-cheek response to this assertion can be found in a mortuary death-dance number that merrily proclaims: "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think!"
Like the films Allen pays homage to, what Everyone Says lacks in special effects or breathtaking cinematography is made up for by performance, another outdated Hollywood convention. Part of the humour in Allen's film arises from his recognition of the absurdity inherent to the musical genre and his association of this absurdity with love. Love, like spontaneous singing, is crazy, inexplicable, even embarrassingly corny at times, but is, ultimately, a human trait we can't resist holding dear.
Much of the action revolves around the engagement between Skylar (Drew Barrymore, Scream) and Holden (Edward Norton, Primal Fear), two young lovers who have an opportunity to experience the kind of magic their older counterparts, divorcees Joe (Woody Allen) and Steffi (Goldie Hawn, Overboard) once had but somehow lost. In an early scene, Skylar's singing parallels the naiveté of Sandra Dee in Grease; she is in danger of taking Holden's love for granted because she has nothing to compare it to. Meanwhile, Joe attempts to fill the empty space left by Steffi by pursuing a romantic, but fraudulent, affair with Von (Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman). Narration of the events, spanning four seasons, in the lives of a confusingly extended family is provided by D.J. (newcomer Natasha Lyonne), Joe's daughter who, at the outset of the film, reveals her aversion toward romantic encounters. Like the audience however, D.J. can't help being drawn into the action, initially by playing matchmaker for her father but, eventually, by participating in the mating game herself.
Everyone in the film sings, even those who can't, and some of the crooning (Hawn's in particular) is surprisingly good. Some of Allen's past attempts at nostalgic revival and genre resurrection have worked (Radio Days, Mighty Aphrodite) while others have not fared so well (Shadows and Fog), but he never seems to give up trying. If you've ever heard yourself saying: "They just don't make movies like that anymore. . ." you're in for a surprise.
From the champagne-fountain-like opening shots of springtime in New York to the magical flying dance finale on the banks of the Seine, Everyone Says I Love You is a treat well worth the trip down memory lane.