EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (1996) A film review by Nick Durutta Copyright 1996 Nick Durutta
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Say what you will about Woody Allen's movies these days--and I would be the first to admit that they don't compare to his 1970s heyday--he still has the capacity for invention and surprise.
His latest, "Everyone Says I Love You," is a perfect case in point, resurrecting a nearly-defunct form of cinema--the musical--and giving it a fresh, invigorating spin. Most recent attempts at movie musicals have failed dismally, mostly because modern audiences are not willing to suspend disbelief long enough to accept characters bursting into spontaneous song. "Everyone" addresses that by staging its musical numbers with a self-conscious wink at the audience, as if to say, "Yes, this is corny and kinda dumb, but we KNOW it's corny and kinda dumb, so play along!"
It's also fortunate that Allen does not try to inject original songs into the story, but relies on semi-standards from the 30s and 40s. The only judgment call that occasionally misfires is having actors not known for their singing abilities use their own voices (including Allen himself). Hearing Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore warble is particularly painful; but others in the cast--Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton and Alan Alda--are surprisingly good.
Apart from the music, "Everyone" is standard Woody Allen. It concerns a group of upper-class New Yorkers wrestling with relationships and assorted neuroses. Woody is an expatriate writer living in Paris and keeping up a strangely close relationship with his ex-wife (Hawn) and her current husband(Alda). While on a vacation in Venice with his daughter, Allen meets Roberts and pursues a romance with her.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Alda and Hawn's daughter Barrymore is about to marry a junior lawyer (Norton) only to get her affections diverted by a just-released convicted murderer (Tim Roth). Although you get a good helping on Allen one-liners, that's pretty much what there is in the way of plot, which would be rather pale minus the musical numbers.
But the musical interludes are handled wonderfully. A song-and-dance number in Harry Winston's Fifth Avenue jewelry emporium is almost overpowering in its exuberance. And a finale scene of Allen and Hawn dancing on a deserted moonlit quay in Paris is almost transcendent -- literally (Hawn does some very unusual spins and leaps).
When all is said and done, it's as light as a parfait. There's relatively little of Allen's moralizing and whining. But that's certainly okay. The musical genre works just as well today as it did in the Golden Age of 50 years ago -- particularly when it's done so knowingly right.
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