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CELEBRITY

SYNOPSIS:
Lee Simon (Kenneth Branagh), a would-be novelist and screenwriter tries to elicit support for his script from high-profile actors and actresses (Melanie Griffith and Leonardo DiCaprio). Simon has recently left his wife, Robin (Judy Davis); his partners include model (Charlize Theron), book editor (Famke Janssen), and a would-be actress (Winona Ryder). Robin, in many ways, is more neurotic than her husband, and meets a charismatic man (Joe Mantegna) who changes her life and outlook on the future.

"There are moments of movie magic in Woody Allen's Celebrity, but moments alone do not a movie magical make. There are some witty lines, some interesting concepts and genuinely inspired scenes that take us on the path of irony, satire and stimulus. But as a whole, Celebrity is a mish mash that conceptually only half works and drowns largely on its pivotal character played by a very miscast Kenneth Branagh. His central role is one that Allen himself could play perfectly, had he been twenty years younger. But Branagh can't play lovable bumbling. He fumbles, he stumbles and we don't empathise. Only Allen can play that character to sublime perfection. On the other hand, Judy Davis is a tour de force as the repressed, rejected housewife whose discovery of confidence, assurance and love transform her into what she thought she didn't want to be. Charlize Theron stuns as the compelling, paranoid nymphomanic, Melanie Griffiths makes an impression and we see Leo Di Caprio destroy a hotel room and partake in an orgy. We glimpse differing forms of celebrity, spy its results and consequences. We see small time kitch and tacky to big time insincere tacky. Allen adds his usual touches of deprecating humour and keenly observed details of human frailty; subtly biting and satirical. Clever use of music – from Beethoven's 5th in C Minor to the meaningful On a Slow Boat to China - adds to the film's integrity, while the use of black and white cinematography adds a stylistic element. Celebrity unveils the brittle, shallow frailty of the ego, but leaves us hungry for greater impact and something to celebrate."
Louise Keller

"They are damning, Louise above and Paul below; and it’s true, Allen’s intent is not well realised – but I give him marks for an epic attempt. Allen is trying to impale the cult of celebrity on the spike of his satiric humour, but he goes blunt just when we are calling for the point to go deeper. The diffused nature of the film not only saves it from being a sermon, but it makes it meander and often end up in non sequituirs. But while the film as a whole doesn’t work for me, I did enjoy much of it for their own merits: acting, ideas, the black and white photography and the often tragic humour. Branagh’s bumbling aside, the cast is a knock out, and like everyone says, Judy Davis gives us a Bette Davis performance (and yes, it is a bumpy night). Perhaps it was a mistake to project Woody Allen onto Kenneth Branagh, and perhaps Woody should have decided which of his bete noirs he was going to carve up for dinner – his characters or the cult of celebrity. Still, I had some fun."
Andrew L. Urban

"There's no doubt that following his brilliantly acerbic Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen's further foray into life's eternal mysteries has finally floundered. Celebrity is a great idea, and the usual Allen neuroses are typically prevalent, but this script, more than anything we've seen from Allen in over a decade, is a meandering mess that lacks any real substance. Allen decided against casting himself in the central role, and for reasons that defy logic, gave the part in question to Kenneth Branagh, who is simply woeful. Branagh lacks the comic finesse to pull this off, and rather than make the character his own, he decided to simply imitate Allen's onscreen persona. The result is not only a distraction, but Branagh's mere presence seems to slow down the film. It's tedious to watch Branagh deliver his lines with clumsy indifference, and not have an idea of how to create a sense of communication with the audience. It's not all Branagh's fault. Allen has scripted a piece which is full of his obsessions, manufactured into a veritable potpourri of loosely disconnected scenes, half-baked characters and simplistic vignettes. It's almost as if he has made a series of short, quirky films. Celebrity explores the nature and power of celebrity, so it's ironic that he has peopled this film with A-list stars who really have no significant function in terms of propelling Allen's confused narrative. The film's major plus, however, is the always luminous Judy Davis, who plays a neurotic mess who ultimately is transformed into the kind of icon she had always resented. Davis is wonderful here, and it's clearly her film. The scene where she tries to learn the secret ways of giving oral sex from a perplexed hooker {a nice turn from Bebe Neuwirth), is the film's main comic scene-stealer. But Branagh is so appalling, so clearly miscast, that his major storyline, the focus of the film, never has a chance. Allen devotees will be sorely disappointed at this clumsy, pretentious and ineffectual effort."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

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See our interview with
WOODY ALLEN

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CELEBRITY (M)
(US)

CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Joe Mantegna, Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth


DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

PRODUCER: Jean Doumanian

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sven Nykvist

EDITOR: Susan E. Morse

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Santo Loquasto

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 13, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: March 7, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment







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