Volume 92, Issue 46

Wednesday, November 25, 1998

compromising


ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
 

Allen's Celebrity slams glam


Gazette file photo

C'MON SEVEN! DADDY NEEDS A FIFTH PORCHE. Kenneth Branagh, Leonardo DiCaprio and Gretchen Mol watch closely as Woody Allen examines fame in his latest film, Celebrity.

By Malcolm Schmitt

Gazette Staff

Many people believe fame and fortune would be a dream come true for anyone. After viewing writer and director Woody Allen's latest work, Celebrity, it's safe to say Allen wouldn't agree.

The story revolves around a network of related characters, all tied to the entertainment industry in one aspect or another. Some have successful careers but aren't happy. Some are satisfied and content with where they stand. Some are still striving to make it.

It's a "grass is greener" world, with stardom being the "grass" and the "greener" being anywhere else.

Lee Simon (Kenneth Branagh) is an affluent novelist who, after contemplating his life at a high school reunion, decides to dump wife Robin (Judy Davis) and pursue a fast-paced life in the movies, writing screenplays. Robin is left to pick up the pieces of a broken 16-year marriage and meets talk show producer Tony Gardella (Joe Mantegna), who puts her on her way.

The plot follows the couple after they split, documenting their individual encounters with people from the high and low ends of the entertainment spectrum.

Celebrity is half docudrama and half classic Allen social satire, exposing the sad world of show business while simultaneously poking fun at it. Set in New York City, the film makes an obvious effort to isolate the ridiculous conversations and behaviour only high profile big shots can indulge in and get away with.

Personalities are simplified and intensified through shooting the picture in black and white and by the filtering of background noise during dialogue. Even without these adjustments, the story would be compelling, as the writing is wittingly real and genuinely funny.

Within a very large and prestigious cast, Davis' performance stands out as the most impressive. Her character undergoes a transformation from being a deserted, insecure ex-wife to a successful, independent and confident celebrity, without any real effort on her part. Her role is distinct, despite fine acting by Branagh, Mantegna and notables Winona Ryder, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth and Hank Azaria.

Branagh's portrayal of Lee Simon is interesting, yet curious. Simon is a pathetic, nervous man who tries to wheel both beautiful women into bed and high rollers into glancing at his screenplay. From time to time, Simon even seems quite neurotic and tends to stutter.

In a couple of scenes, Simon's character suspiciously reeks of Allen's stereotyped personality – that is, in Branagh's body. Maybe Allen couldn't see himself sleeping with supermodels as being believable for the audience.

Regardless, every scene in this film is entertaining to watch, including Lee Simon's encounter with an "orgasmic" supermodel, actor Brandon Darrow's (DiCaprio) trashing of a hotel room and a hilarious banana blow-job demonstration between Robin Simon and a hooker (Neuwirth).

Celebrity is a commentary on the complicated lifestyle of being and wanting to be famous, but is completely enjoyable to watch and laugh at until its ironic final scene. People in this movie are already famous and the movie itself is excellent – but according to Allen's depiction, who knows how many of them are happy?


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Copyright The Gazette 1998