Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling books as characters, real and fictional, come back to haunt him.
Set in 1920's New York City, this movie tells the story of idealistic young playwright David Shayne. Producer Julian Marx finally finds funding for the project from gangster Nick Valenti. The catch is that Nick's girl friend Olive Neal gets the part of a psychiatrist, and Olive is a bimbo who could never pass for a psychiatrist as well as being a dreadful actress. Agreeing to this first compromise is the first step to Broadway's complete seduction of David, who neglects longtime girl friend Ellen. Meanwhile David puts up with Warner Purcell, the leading man who is a compulsive eater, Helen Sinclair, the grand dame who wants her part jazzed up, and Cheech, Olive's interfering hitman / bodyguard. Eventually, the playwright must decide whether art or life is more important. Written by
Woody Allen sends up the world of Broadway and the gangsters who love it in this Runyonesque comedy, one of his very best.
John Cusack is the Allen surrogate, a nebbish playwright who's struggling to remain true to his artistic vision amongst countless obstacles. Those obstacles include: a gangster's girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) who Cusack is forced to cast in a lead role; her bodyguard (Chazz Palmienteri), who reveals quite a few dramatic instincts; a high-maintenance diva (Dianne Wiest, uproarious); a leading man who eats too much (Jim Broadbent); and a dithery actress very much in love with her dog (Tracy Ullman).
Because Allen sets his movie in a world he knows well (NY theatre), this feels like one of his strongest and most realized screenplays. The whole thing is a riot. Between Wiest, Tilly and Ullman, I still can't decide who's funniest.
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