Thursday, March 20, 2014

Everyone Says I Love You


Principal photography on Fillies, my musical version of Equus , is due to start Monday. I do hope the studio sends the driver on time. I hate to be late for a make-up call and, as the first sequence is a dream number in which I play a horse, it's going to be hours in the chair being fitted with latex prosthetics. The number is the God Why Won't You Rub Me? Oh I See You Lost Your Horse Brush Blues during which I lead a bunch of dream horses through a tap ballet while Rob Lowe, as Alan Strang, runs among us clad only in a saddle blanket trying to reconcile his divided mind. Given the dozens of camera set-ups needed, this is going to take us nearly a week to complete. I hope my poor feet hold out in those fiberglass hoof tap shoes.

Tonight, Norman and I are due at a charity gala benefiting the dementia unit of the Motion Picture and Television Fund home. I'm shadowing their resident psychiatrist in order to pick up some more tips on my portrayal of Martina Dysart. Norman is under strict orders to behave and not to gulp down the complimentary cocktails and then pretend he's a singing waiter with the hors d'oeuvre trays like he did last year. I am still a bit miffed from his trying to offer me as a lot in last year’s silent auction. I plan on wearing the Bustopher Jones from my GlamourPuss collection of gowns (inspired by the costumes from Cats ) and am sure it will be as big a hit as my Grizabella.

As I am very much in a musical mood, I happened to peruse my movie library and came across Everyone Says I Love You , Woody Allen's entry in the genre from several years ago, so I popped it into the home theater system for another look. Everyone Says I Love You is Woody's musical valentine to the upper middle class of Manhattan, focusing on the life and loves of an extended, blended family on the Upper East Side over the course of the year. The lush photography of Park Avenue, Central Park, and other New York landmarks makes the city into a magical fairytale land so, when characters begin singing and dancing, it seems perfectly natural.

The family, headed by Alan Alda and Goldie Hawn, includes a large number of his, hers and theirs kids played by a talented assortment of young performers including Drew Barrymore, Natasha Lyonne, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Gaby Hoffman, and Edward Norton, along for the ride as Drew's fiancé. Woody Allen turns up as well, as his usual collection of neurotic tics. This time he’s Goldie Hawn's ex and Natasha Lyonne's father, an expatriate author living in Paris who has no luck with women. When he and Natasha vacation together in Venice, he runs into Julia Roberts (literally) and, through plot contrivance, is able to turn himself into Julia's dream man.

Therein lies the great weakness of the film. The domestic comedy in the Patrick Dennis mode that follows a household of lovable, but human, eccentrics keeps getting interrupted with an uninteresting and somewhat unappetizing May-December romance. Given what we all know about Woody's personal predilections, the whole Venice interlude (and a later Parisian one) seem designed for no other reason than to allow him to paw America's sweetheart on screen in romantic locations. It's a different movie, and not a very good one, as Julia is playing such an unbelievable zombie, that all life is sucked out of the film during these moments.

The other movie, the one taking place back in New York, however, is a delight. The cast if of varying vocal talents (but only Drew Barrymore is actually dubbed.) The lack of technique is more than made up for by exuberance by the cast, all excellent actors. Edward Norton, not really a singer, is charming as the love-smitten swain courting Drew Barrymore (and has a few priceless scenes involving food and engagement rings). He should, however, never be allowed to dance in public again. While he has energy, he looks like every straight college boy in a pick-up dance club after one drink too many trying to impress the cute girl with his Saturday Night Fever impression. Tim Roth, as his rival, displays a nice singing voice and is a hoot in his scenes as a recently paroled criminal who invades the family’s social rituals. The real musical highlight, however, comes toward the end when Woody and Goldie Hawn, showing her dancer's body and training to full advantage, engage in a gravity defying Astaire/Rogers pas de deux on the banks of the Seine. Sort of a Funny Face meets The Matrix moment.

The orchestral music and arrangements of old standards by Dick Hyman are wonderful, especially in the ensemble numbers, which take place in such oddball venues as Harry Winston, a hospital emergency ward, and a funeral parlor. Graciela Daniele's choreography is serviceable, if a bit stagy and is at its best when a dozen dancing Grouchos perform Hooray for Captain Spaulding in French.

The New York movie is a four star confection. The Julia Roberts movie is a two star piece of tripe so the whole thing evens out at three stars. Woody is at his best when he uses the conventions of the past to illuminate the present ( The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Manhattan ) but tends to get a bit bogged down when he's using his screenplays as therapy. Hopefully he's now over Miss Roberts and can move on. Unfortunately, given his track record, I imagine he's preparing a new script for Britney Spears.

Ring swallowing. Singing bananas. Floor hockey. Twin competition. Racehorse buying. Gratuitous Parisian garret. Police chases. Dancing ghosts. Dancing pregnant women. Dancing sales clerks. Gratuitous gondoliers. Hindi singing.

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