Celebrity (1998), Cert 18.

Director - Woody Allen.

Writer - Woody Allen.

Starring - Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Joe Mantegna & Famke Janssen.

 

Premise - When thirty-something couple Lee (Kenneth Branagh) and Robin (Judy Davis) divorce their lives alter dramatically as they both become entangled in the New York celebrity scene.

I've never been the biggest fan of Woody Allen's movies. The one I enjoyed most was 'Bullets Over Broadway' which, like Celebrity didn't star Woody Allen. Instead what you got was John Cusak playing Woody Allen in all but name. In Celebrity you get Kenneth Branagh playing Woody Allen in all but name. It makes you wonder why he didn't just play the part himself; maybe he just plain couldn't be bothered?

Or maybe it's because he realised that Celebrity was going to end up as a decidedly average movie with unlikable characters and flat comic moments?

Whatever the reason what we do get is Kenneth Branagh giving what can only be described as a carbon copy of Woody right down to the neurosis, body movements and speech patterns. What Branagh does bring to the plate is an inherent annoyingness that tarnishes the film as a whole. His Lee Simon decides after a school reunion that his marriage of 16 years is holding his life back. So he gets a divorce and goes about sleeping with as many young beautiful women as possible.

With that we follow Lee about as he goes after the likes of Charlize Theron (who has the most wonderful 'problem'), Winona Ryder, Famke Jannsen and Melanie Griffiths. He sleeps with them (well, most of them), but his real purpose is his own quest for celebrity. He is an aspiring screen writer and uses these women to shill his latest screenplay.

This makes Lee about as despicable as they come. Not only did he ditch his wife, but the women he is now trying to bed are merely stepping stones in his quest to make it big in the world of movies.

His wife on the other hand is a woman who finds herself thrust into the world of celebrity despite herself. She doesn't want it, but luck (or fate?) thrusts it in her direction. This is the overriding theme of the movie. Judy Davis does well in her role and we see her rise like a phoenix from the flames. She starts of easily as neurotic and anxious as her ex husband, but by the time the movie ends she is as assured and confident as she could hope for.

The movie moves forward as we follow both Lee and Robin in their adventures in what basically amounts to a procession of comedy sketches. They move from scene to scene, each with some famous cameo or other. The best of these ‘cameo sketches’ sees Lee trying to speak to Leonardo DiCaprio about the script. DiCaprio is interested, but somehow they end up in Atlantic City at a boxing match and eventually in a hotel room with some groupies.

Most of the scenes involve sex in some fashion or another and the film is quite frank in its description of sex. This is a mature movie make no mistake about it. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that large portions of the film are just plain not funny. As entertaining is Branagh's impersonation of Woody Allen is it grows tiresome and begins to grate.

Woody Allen is a masterful filmmaker and his love for New York is no secret. He films the city so beautifully and majestically. His choice of black and white for the film should be commended as it really adds something to the film. His love for jazz is apparent in the lovely score for the film. If anything Celebrity is a treat for the ears and eyes.

It's a shame then that it's neither not that interesting nor that funny. It is, when it's all said and done, a very average movie with little to recommend unless you are a die hard Allen nut. Looks like 'Bullet Over Broadway' is still looking good as my favorite Allen flick.

 

/10.

See Celebrity if you enjoyed - Manhattan (1979), Cruel Intentions (1999), Gods & Monsters (1998).

Poster Quote - Autograph Mr. Allen.... I mean Branagh....