Lau Chee Nien
Directed and Written by: Woody Allen
Starring : Hank Azaria, Kenneth Branagh, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner,
Winona Ryder, Bebe Neuwirth, etc.
Running Time : 113 mins approx.
This Review Filed: 27 February, 1999.
CELEBRITY, Woody Allen's 29th outing as a director for a feature-length
film is a black and white comedy that traces the attempts of his alter
ego Lee Simon, a celebrity journalist who is trying to get a Hollywood
star interested in his screenplay. Shot in glorious black and white,
the film is reminiscent of European avarde-garde films, especially
in scenes with marvelous backdrops where the human figure remains a
tiny object, whether it be a woman on a boat out at sea tossing pieces
of paper into the water, or a heroine in a movie running up the steps
and gazing up into the sky to see a plane spelling out the word "Help"
in the sky.
The movie has brilliant bits of humor, such as when Leeís ex-wife Robin
seeks advice on oral sex from a celebrated prostitute, or the spoofs and/or
depictions of CELEBRITY characters in their natural environments like a
movie premiere or a glamorous party, or when a model becomes orgasmic when
touched on any part of her body. Other exmaples are when a Hollywood
actress shows Lee around her childhood home, Leonardo DiCaprioís hilarious
spoof of a young Hollywood heart throb behind the scene indulging in
plenty of swearing, violent behavior, drugs and sex, a spoof of a line
spoken by the Blanche Dubois character in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
(Allen had previously spoofed that same line to great hilarious effects
in his 1973 film SLEEPER). In another instance a group of skinheads are put in the same
room together with religious leaders. In another, the skinheads and a mob
boss talk about have killed people.
CELEBRITYís lead character Lee Simon is another
that is the standard Woody Allen caricature character that has appeared
in almost all of his films all the way back to BANANAS in 1971 to ANNIE HALL
in 1977 to DECONSTRUCTING HARRY in 1997. Kenneth Branagh does a
brilliant job of mimicking Allenís caricature, but it is Judy Davisís
portrayal of Leeís even more neurotic ex-wife who is the more
interesting and engaging character to watch. The guest star cameos are
also a true delight to watch, not just because each of them stand out on
their own, but also because some of the actors seem to be having a great
time playing their characters (remember Demi Moore in DECONSTRUCTING HARRY? Ė
possibly her funniest and best performance ever). Thereís
Famke Janssen, Winona Ryder and Charlize Theron who play the objects of
Leeís desire, Joe Mantegna as a television producer, DiCaprio as a
Hollywood heartthrob, Hank Azaria as a boring boyfriend, Bebe Neuworth
as a CELEBRITY prostitute, Aida Turturro as a psychic fortune teller and
The Daytrippers director Greg Mottola who does a funny turn as a
director who criticizes his actress behind the camera but is heaps full
of praises in front of her. Despite brief appearances, these characters
make more memorable impressions than the lead, which could be due to the
fact that Branagh in a droning and whining Allen caricature doesnít
seem to produce a character that most would care much about except to
see how much of Lee is true to Allenís own private life and his
Hypocrisy is an interesting thread that runs through many of the
characters in the movie, resulting in some of the most hilarious scenes
and lines. What is less obvious is the theme and study of what makes
one a CELEBRITY, which the film doesnít go about to preach or provide an
answer to anyway. There are interesting observations though, such as
how a countryís choice of who the celebrities are reflect the nationís
values; or when a Grandmother questions why a hijacker should be made
famous for letting himself get caught. But the CELEBRITY theme runs
consistently through the film, either as a theme or as a backdrop,
character or subject.
CELEBRITY may or may not be a great Woody Allen film, but it has lots
bits which are funny and likeable, even if one of my own favorite
reviewer, James Berandinelli, spoke out against the film as being one of
Allenís weaker efforts. Anyhow, CELEBRITY makes for a much more
worthwhile time spend at the cinema for me than any one of those
mindless commercial so-called blockbuster flicks dominating theatre
screens across the island.
CELEBRITY runs close to the 113 minutes length I found listed on the
Internet Movie Database, though I did detect at least two abrupt jumps
which could be bad editing but looks more like the local censorís
handiwork . Overall, the "cuts" werenít too much of any annoying
The Flying Inkpot's Rating System
* Wait for the TV2 broadcast.
** A little creaky, but still better than staying at home with Gotcha!
*** Pretty good, bring a friend.
**** Amazing, potent stuff.
***** Perfection. See it twice.
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