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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Celebrity

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Leonardo DiCaprio
Director: Woody Allen
Rated: R
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: November 1998
Genre: Comedy

Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

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 melancholic mood.

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 badly.

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

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