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July 16, 2014

Celebrity (1998)
Director: Woody Allen
Actors: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Joe Mantegna

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Synopsis: New York couple, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) and Robin (Judy Davis), divorce after sixteen years of marriage. Thereafter, their lives go in different directions. Lee becomes seduced by the celebrity lifestyle he writes about, and Robin’s insecurities threaten the seemingly happy developments of finding success (and indeed a degree of fame) in her private and professional lives.

Review: Although there’s no doubt that Celebrity is a Woody Allen work in minor key, and his supposedly sharp and prescient riffings on the nature of celebrity are really quite bleedin’ obvious, it’s still indicative of a time when Allen had a degree of vivacity and ingenuity in his work (à la similar wittily neurotic works of the time, Husbands and Wives and Deconstructing Harry) before that work went down the turgid, tourist-porn route in Europe.

The rough edges of Celebrity are what really keep it bubbling along. I like the black and white photography, and there are some very funny gags and skits (the sequence where Branagh’s fame hungry journalist gets dragged around by an imperious supermodel played excellently by Charlize Theron is hilarious). I just think Allen fails to paint a deeper hue to his celebrity/fame thesis, and the central narrative cog around the irony that Branagh’s journalist – though seduced by the flame of celebrity – ends up unhappy and unsuccessful, while his anxious wife who shuns fame still gets a rich personal and professional life by the story’s end, is a touch pat and unconvincing. (July 2014)

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