In his 28th film as director, Woody Allen gives us his own
cynical take on Andy Warhol's famous line that everyone will find
their fifteen minutes of fame. For him, fame is a double edged sword.
While some people desperately crave fame and are prepared to do
virtually anything to achieve it, there are others who are content to
worship celebrities from afar. Celebrity proves to be Allen's most
satisfying and entertaining film for quite some time.
Although full of his usual trade mark quips, self-effacing
one-liners, and familiar neurotic characters, it also marks something
of a minor departure. He seems to be moving away from increasingly
bland, introspective examinations of his own troubled private life to
tackle broader, more mainstream subject matter. However, many within
the audience will still try to read between the lines and identify
which characters are drawn from Allen's own life. He has also
returned to filming in black and white, which somehow suits the film's
The film follows the parallel fortunes of frustrated,
egotistical writer Lee Simon (Kenneth Branagh) and Robin (Judy Davis),
his ex-wife. Their relationship is explored through a series of
flashbacks, and accidental encounters at various social gatherings in
Manhattan. A journalist who is attracted by the allure of the rich
and famous, Simon seems destined to always remain on the periphery of
the world he so desperately craves. His conquests (including Charlize
Theron, former Bond girl Famke Janssen, and Winona Ryder) all end
Robin however has grown disillusioned at his womanising and
lack of success and divorced him. We first meet her at a religious
retreat where she has gone, reluctantly looking for spiritual
guidance. She later meets television producer Tony Gardella (Joe
Mantegna), and finds love and happiness all over again. However,
while Robin is confidently building a new life and a new career, the
shallow, womanising Simon seems to be standing still, repeating his
mistakes all over again.
As usual, Allen crams the film full of famous faces, many
wasted in fleeting cameos and small roles that really don't allow them
to do much.
Playing Allen's alter-ego here, Branagh does an uncanny job of
channelling his usual persona through his superbly realised
performance. He brilliantly assumes his mannerisms, his inflections
and his nervous speech rhythms to a tee. Allen always seems to draw
the best out of Davis, and she is superb here. Her wonderfully comic
performance brings some fire and passion to the material.
Leonardo DiCaprio is also good in a smaller role as the brash,
hot young actor who abuses his status, while Melanie Griffith brings a
certain style to her role as a famous film actress.
Copyright © 1998 Greg King