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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.91%
Worth A Look36.96%
Average: 30.43%
Pretty Bad: 8.7%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 28 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Woody takes on the cult of personality."
4 stars

In 'Celebrity,' Woody Allen's angle isn't the headaches of fame; he did that already in 'Stardust Memories,' a seething hate letter to his fans and critics. No, he's interested in the hangers-on -- the entertainment reporters, the aspiring actresses working as extras, the hoteliers who must deal with a hot young star's room-trashing tantrums. 'Celebrity' is about the tiny planets revolving around Hollywood's many suns, trying to absorb some heat. It's a cold universe nonetheless.

Woody doesn't appear onscreen, but he's there in spirit and in voice: Kenneth Branagh, as the schlumpy reporter Lee Simon, has puckishly adopted Woody's trademark stammer. Allen has said that this was Branagh's idea, not his own, and that he didn't want to interfere with the performance. Bullshit: This is the director who once reshot an entire film with a new cast, and interfering with a performance you didn't intend is your job as a director. No, Allen and Branagh understood there's only one way to play Lee -- written as an insecure, immature putz, forever jabbering at women in hopes of getting them horizontal. And that way is to play him as the familiar Woody character. Branagh, by the way, does a terrific, self-deprecating job of it. Critics who've said he's annoying miss the point: Should Lee, a sensitive-insensitive jerk, not be annoying?

Lee weaves in and out of the Woody Allen universe, a Manhattan full of bitter women, failed artists, and tweedy people who drone on about books. All of Woody's people are smart, or at least eloquent, but stone stupid when it comes to sex and romance. That's always been the saving grace of even Woody's most rarefied dramas: These elitists, who drop casual references to Rilke and Schopenhauer, are as hopeless as the rest of us when struck by Cupid's arrow or by stirrings in the loins. Celebrity adds another reassurance: These intellectuals are also more infatuated with success and fame than they'd care to admit -- just like us popcorn-munchers.

The loosely structured plot follows Lee and his soon-to-be ex-wife Robin (Judy Davis) as they rebound from the implosion of their fifteen-year marriage. Robin tries the usual upper-middle-class balms for a broken heart (a religious retreat, a consultation with a plastic surgeon) before meeting the man of her dreams -- Tony Gardella (Joe Mantegna), a local-TV producer who falls hard for her. Allen gives her a romance so implausibly storybookish that she keeps waiting for the sad ending; the joke is that there isn't one, and she, too, becomes a beloved celebrity, while Lee flails around, hopping from one infatuation to the next, and trying to get big-name actors to look at his dumb screenplay about an armored-car robbery.

One of Lee's targets is Leonardo DiCaprio, as an abusive, hard-partying movie star probably modeled on what Woody has read about the exploits of Johnny Depp or Christian Slater. That Leo was cast before he himself reached the top of the world is one of the movie's deeper ironies. It would be unfair to say he's playing himself (DiCaprio has been relatively well-behaved so far); I think he's really playing what he doesn't want to become. His performance, which takes up a Warholian fifteen minutes of the film, presents celebrity excess as viewed from the outside; yet DiCaprio still manages to suggest the stress and isolation of being a star, even before he actually became one.

The message of 'Celebrity' is the extremely un-American notion that anything you aspire to and work for -- fame, sex, success -- won't make you happy; you have to give up the pursuit of happiness (as Robin does) to achieve it. 'Celebrity' isn't really a satire of our obsession with fame; it's consistent with Woody Allen's tragicomic theme: that the harder we push that Sisyphean rock up the mountain, the harder it rolls down on us.

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originally posted: 01/28/07 06:40:04
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User Comments

1/17/10 Dane Youssef Not everything from Allen's gonna score. Uneven. Some nice moments, especially DiCaprio. 3 stars
10/23/08 johny Not to exciting. I don't get why it was in black and white. Don't get KB as Woody. 3 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu Better than a lot of Woody's recents; Leo & Charlize funny cameos 4 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Alright. Not peticularly good for Woody Allen. 4 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink Bebe Neuwirth, Judy Davis and Melanie Griffith are hysterically funny in this. 4 stars
3/27/03 Jack Sommersby Acceptable but unsurprising. 3 stars
1/20/03 Andrew Callaway Not up to Allen stardards. Has great bits though. 4 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Does Allen have a screenplay factory somewhere? 3 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden Very Pale and Weak Woody Allen Flick. 2 stars
7/14/00 humbert this would be so much better without KB playingWA 4 stars
1/02/00 Tyson Stewart Did not like KB at all. Woody should of been in this picture! But still very entertaining 4 stars
9/30/99 Bozo Leo's scene made the movie..he was was all right 4 stars
6/04/99 DM Top draw - even Kenny is bearable! 5 stars
5/31/99 Bruce Hedge GREAT review, Jules, agree 100%-but it,s a movie for us older people! 5 stars
4/12/99 Tristynn Leo.. I am so dissapointed in you young man..never do a flick with Winona.. yuk 2 stars
2/02/99 Vick Di Brecci Am I the only one who liked this film? La Dolve Vita derived, typically funny Woody 4 stars
1/16/99 VioLenT BoB Boring as shit....I don't like Woody Allen, so I don't want to see someone play Woody Allen 3 stars
12/23/98 Lou Pine, Jr. KB delivers an imitation, not a performance. His protag is hateful. Rent Stardust Memories. 3 stars
12/11/98 Mike Mc good but not wonderfull...some of the scenes and transitions were way long, even for woody 4 stars
12/10/98 Virginia Walz Woody Allen is at his peak!!! 5 stars
12/10/98 Silent Rob Woody looks at the world of Celebrity, and asks 'why?'..Perhaps we should as well. 5 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz A sardonic, almost ruefully affectionate window into Allen's world. 5 stars
12/04/98 Bridgette blech. the only good things are bebe and leo. 2 stars
12/01/98 Kirgo entertaining. Very un Woody Allen like Woody Allen film. 4 stars
11/30/98 Johny Episodic, but has it's moments. I'd swear Branagh was Allen. 3 stars
11/24/98 Lindsay It started out OK, but ended up being pretty sucky. DiCaprio fans are NOT going to like it, 3 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool This film is in black & white and is handsomely put together visually. 4 stars
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  20-Nov-1998 (R)
  DVD: 14-Feb-2012


  13-May-1999 (MA)

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