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Celebrity [DVD] 
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Woody Allen offers a critical look at the world of modern day celebrity in this comedy starring Kenneth Branagh and Judy Davis. As journalist Lee Simon (Branagh) breaks up with his school-teacher wife Robin (Davis), he embarks on an odyssey into the world of the rich and famous. Moving with celebrated actresses, beautiful supermodels, and unruly film stars, Lee meets some of the most glamorous people alive. Meanwhile, Robin finds a celebrity lifestyle of her own as she takes an unlikely path to TV stardom. Melanie Griffith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Famke Janssen also star.
Woody Allen's Celebrity--a portrait of the celebrity life as seen through the eyes of a newly divorced couple--is a black-and-white, New York-style La Dolce Vita that's a chillier flip side to Allen's earlier New York valentine, Manhattan. Despite a few missteps, though, it's an admirable (if dark) and worthy addition to the Allen pantheon. Kenneth Branagh and Judy Davis (both boasting American accents) star as the ex-couple, each struggling to build new, separate lives in a media-saturated, celebrity-driven world. Branagh tries his hand at celebrity profiles (while peddling a screenplay to any star that will listen) and falls into the lap of a bosomy starlet (Melanie Griffith), the first in a long line of briefly attainable women. Davis runs into a producer (Joe Mantegna) who offers her a job as a TV personality as well as a loving relationship. This seemingly simple double plot is punctuated with twists and turns in the form of flashbacks and innumerable side trips, all ravishingly photographed in black and white by the legendary Sven Nykvist, and populated by one of Allen's largest casts ever; if you blink you'll miss countless cameos by Isaac Mizrahi, Donald Trump, Hank Azaria, Leonardo DiCaprio and a host of others.
While Davis is splendid as usual (aside from the requisite nervous breakdown scene she's done one too many times), somebody should have told Branagh to put a kibosh on his Woody Allen imitation. His failure in the role, however, isn't entirely his fault, as it's another in a long line of unlikable male protagonists which Allen has created, as if daring audiences to hate his main characters after loving them in such movies as Manhattan and Annie Hall. Far more enjoyable misadventures with Branagh include Charlise Theron in the film's best performance as a libidinous supermodel with a penchant for Echinacea; a stunning Famke Janssen as a successful book editor; and Winona Ryder, acting like an adult for the first time, as an aspiring actress. But they all manage to slip through Branagh's fingers by the end of the film. --Mark Englehart, Amazon.com
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Top Customer Reviews
Lee (Kenneth Branagh) is an American journalist, reporting on Hollywood’s elite. The story centres around Lee’s love life, it’s not so much boy meets girl boy loses girl, more boy meets girl and then wants another girl and another.
As commentary, Allen's script displays the absurdity of celebrity, questioning why we choose some people to celebrate and not others. It’s the same with the protagonist's love life; for a short period of time he lusts for a woman, celebrating her, and then the fad passes and he wants another.
Watching this reminded me of Robert Altman's The Player (1992), although it’s nowhere near as dark.
The film’s highpoint is Branagh doing a pitch perfect impression of a Woody Allen character that would have been played by Woody Allen. Plus those self-referencing jokes that Allen writes, such as when one character asks if they want to see a certain director’s film, to where the other character says they don't because he’s so pretensions and all his films are in black and white. Celebrity is of course filmed in black and white. This is a big reason why I return to Allen's back catalogue. He’s the first to make fun of himself for the enjoyment of his audience.
I prefer these smarter Allen comedies compared to the slapstick humour of his early films such as Bananas (1971). This is well worth a watch for a good script and an exceptional performance from Branagh.
Attractively shot in black and white, it fails, however, to attain the humour, art or emotion of other monochrome Allen movies (from Stardust Memories to Manhattan, or Broadway Danny Rose to Shadows and Fog). And despite the many heavyweight actors and actresses, and the slightly dark edge to its aimless slice-of-life-ness (another more frequent Allen trope from this point on), it feels kind of light. Woody-lite, perhaps?
It's certainly not bad, but it's certainly not Woody at his best either. As Woody has spent an ever longer proportion of his professional adult life as a great success, so his films about rich folks goofing around have also become more of a norm.
This can sometimes mean the central characters - both Branagh's and DiCaprio's in this film - aren't that attractive or easy to sympathise with. As a friend of mine said, after watching this, Branagh does quite a convincing Allen. But for all his aping of the Allenesque, he isn't Allen. And had Allen played the role, I suspect he'd have been easier to identify with and sympathise with.
But, as he's said oftentimes himself, Allen wants to continue writing boy meets/gets girl stuff, and feels he's not right for the romantic lead roles any more. (Don't older people experience life/love? Are their experiences any less valid/interesting?).Read more ›
Overall: Well worth the money. If you've never seen a Woody Allen film then hold on before you buy this; watch Bananas or Take The Money And Run for a comedy classic, something like Annie Hall for a bit of romantic comedy brilliance, and perhaps something like Crimes & Misdemeanours for a holistic Allen experience. Films like September or Interiors aren't for the novice.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
there were no subtitles on the disc, despite being listed as such- if you are deaf or HOH, then the disc is useless for you as it was for mePublished 22 months ago by A. Unwin
This film is ok, not brilliant.
The story skips around very quickly from character to character in a rush, but still its ok. Read more
One of Woody's blander offerings.
The point of the film is masked by Branagh's near perfect imitation of Woody Allen, which is at first surprising, then interesting, but after... Read more