While introducing herself to a new physician, Gwyn Marcus becomes overwrought and tells more than even one’s own doctor has any business knowing. Her anguished private revelations rock along for a good hour and a half, accounting for a delightful new movie called “Miami Rhapsody.”
As played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyn is the best Woody Allen character Woody Allen never created. Clearly, this film would not exist if not for the sweeping influence of Allen’s comical take on private anxieties - to say nothing of such kindred artists as Paul Mazursky and the late John Cassavetes. Writerdirector David Frankel acknowledges this debt up front by placing both Mazursky and estranged Allen cohort Mia Farrow in key roles.
“Miami Rhapsody,” told in flashback with terse framing sequences, puts the talkative Gwyn Marcus through torments that strike her from all angles, when least expected. Boyfriend Matt (Gil Bellows) proposes marriage, to which Gwyn cannot find enough objections; even so, she agrees to an engagement.
No sooner than which, the wedding of Gwyn’s antsy kid sister (Carla Gugino) brings out the worst in the Marcus clan - from a surly conjecture by her father (Mazursky) that her mother (Farrow) is carrying on an affair, to her mother’s confirmation of same.
And not only is her mother carrying on, but she’s doing so with the young nurse (Antonio Banderas) who’s in charge of the care and feeding of Gwyn’s ailing grandmother (Mary Chernoff). And not only that, but Gwyn’s irritable brother (Kevin Pollak) is throwing over his pregnant wife (Barbara Garrick) in order to move in with the girlfriend (Naomi Campbell) of his business partner. And it turns out that Gwyn’s dad has been slipping around with his travel agent (Kelly Bishop), and newlywed Sis is acting single again as well. All this finagling must figure in Gwyn’s decision of what to do about that engagement.
Frankel, a TV talent making an assured directing debut, keeps all this business from deteriorating into a soap-operatic muddle by simple grace of having done his homework: He understands Mark Twain’s rule about the essence of humor - “Everything human is pathetic” - and proceeds from there to filter the romantic longings and misdeeds of his assembled characters through the smart-aleck compassion that is the best working tool of every satirist.
In the end, “Miami Rhapsody” breaks no ground and offers no revelations as to the state of humankind, but it honors Frankel’s most obvious influences with high fidelity. It is magnificently photographed, as well, with camera chief Jack Wallner taking advantage of the luminous Miami locations.
xxxx “Miami Rhapsody” Location: Lyons Cinemas Cast: Directed by David Frankel, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Gil Bellows, Mia Farrow, Paul Mazursky, Antonio Banderas Running time: 95 minutes Rating: PG-13 What other critics say about ‘Rhapsody’ Frank Bruni/Detroit Free Press: The initial cast credits appear in alphabetical order, against a black background. A buoyant 1930s standard plays. Then a neurotic, cerebral single, presumably talking to a therapist, looks directly at the screen and bemoans the trials of romance in a string of blissfully sarcastic oneliners. Is this a Woody Allen movie or what? Actually, “Miami Rhapsody” comes courtesy of freshman director David Frankel, who also wrote the screenplay. It casts Sarah Jessica Parker as its whiny but winning protagonist and trades New York’s dark palette for southern Florida’s brighter hues. Those credits are printed in purple. Still, the debt this movie owes to Allen’s style, structure and sensibility - especially in the cases of “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and her Sisters” - is enormous and undisguised, to the point where Frankel casts Mia Farrow as a wife riding out unexpected turbulence in her marriage. “Miami Rhapsody” is derivative, absolutely, but it’s also delightful, because Frankel is parroting a worthy bird. William Arnold/Seattle PostIntelligencer: The so-so Disney marital comedy, “Miami Rhapsody,” is a movie that was obviously conceived before that famous sex survey came out last year indicating that no one in America was having any. In this bedroom farce, everyone is having sex with everyone else all the time. Steve Murray/Cox News Service: If “Annie Hall” hero Alvy Singer moved to Biscayne Bay, had a sex change and adopted a peroxide perm, he’d be like Sarah Jessica Parker in the disarmingly witty “Miami Rhapsody.” In other words, writer-director David Frankel has been watching a lot of Woody Allen movies. Heck, he even has Mia Farrow in his flick … But about that Allen influence: “Miami” starts with Louis Armstrong crooning “One of Those Things” over the credits, and even ends with a variation on the We-Need-the-Eggs punchline that caps “Annie Hall.” But hey, if Woody Allen doesn’t want to make Woody Allen movies anymore, somebody should.