by Jason Whyte
Coupling greek tragedy with a neurotic obsessed with finding a birth mother, "Mighty Aphrodite" hits some new areas of interest and some rough ones, but like all of Allen's comedies, if you admire the way his storytelling and interesting delivery of dialogue works, then you'll no doubt enjoy it. This is not a great film, certainly not one of Woody's best, but at least it has interesting ideas and is thoughtful.The film opens on what would look like the Colosseum of "Gladiator" today, broken apart and full of grass. A greek chorus shows up and sets us up for the story: a couple who can't have a baby, decide to adopt a child and name him Max (a common name running through many of Allen's films). They love the child, but after their marriage is breaking apart, Lenny (Woody Allen) ultimately becomes obsessed with finding out who the real birth mother is, behind his wife Amanda's (Helena Bonham Carter) back.
"Even a mediocre Woody is still a good Woody."
When Lenny, who uses the fake last name Guildersleeve, comes across the birth mother, we discover it is really a screech-voiced, porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino), to which Lenny tries to completely change around, while she is oblivious to the fact this man is carrying her child. These scenes between Lenny and Linda are some of the best in the film. After Lenny declares that he's not interested in sex with her, he turns into a counsellor of sorts, in an attempt to free Linda from the bounds of her "work." Max's son deserves better than this, Lenny thinks.
A lot of the movie does work. I liked how the Greek chorus followed the story, which acts as Lenny's conscience, followed him around and the chorus thought they knew what was going to happen. F. Murray Abraham (always wonderful in everything he does) is the leader of the group, and he offers some interesting advice to Lenny.
"Mighty Aphrodite" is not without its problems. The so called affair between Amanda and a friend of the family gets more attention than it should and the film ends on an incredibly upbeat note which is a little bit more upbeat than it should. My biggest complaint about the film is that Allen, for some idiotic reason, chose not to end the film in his trademark cut to black with static credits, which has always been THE way to end a work of his. In this case, he presents the credits over the final scene and then scrolls the credits after that scene has finished. It may sound like a minor nitpick, but from a man who has done this for pretty much every film he has directed, it says something.That said, "Mighty Aphrodite" is a good work from Allen, certainly far from his least work ("Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Shadows and Fog" immediately come to mind), but is still a fine film with his cinematic traditions, which I can never seem to tire of, down pat.
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originally posted: 04/01/04 19:47:22