May 30, 1997 in Seven

‘I Love You’ Revisits Familiar Allen Territory

By The Spokesman-Review
 

If you’re a Woody Allen fan, there are times when you suspect the man can do anything.

Then you come to your senses. “Interiors” and “September” proved that straight drama is sometimes beyond his reach.

And now, if “Everyone Says I Love You” is any indication, Allen probably shouldn’t attempt to make any more musicals.

Or if he does, he might try casting actors who actually can sing and/or dance.

A typical Allen film, it features him as an expatriate writer living in Paris who, though still smitten with his ex-wife (Goldie Hawn), becomes obsessed with a young New Yorker (Julia Roberts). With the help of his daughter (charmingly portrayed by the film’s narrator, Natasha Lyone), Allen manages to get close to his love object.

As with his other films, “Everyone Says I Love You” emphasizes the struggles of an entire company of characters.

Edward Norton, for example, portrays a guy helplessly in love with Drew Barrymore. Her tastes, though, run to expensive baubles and men behind prison bars (look for Tim Roth as a psychopathic romancer). Hawn, married to Alan Alda, is a confirmed liberal whose current pet project involves the release of a dangerous convict (Roth).

Alda, meanwhile, is the head of a large family, whose members all seem to love talking at once. And his greatest headache is a son (Lucas Haas) whose major act of rebellion is to become a Rush Limbaugh-type conservative.

There’s more, too, with Allen’s cameras following all of it by bouncing back and forth from Venice waterways to Paris flats to Manhattan jewelry shops and spacious apartments. And through it all, the actors are likely at any moment to burst into song - not unlike some 1940s-type Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical romance.

The main difference: Even Astaire’s thin reed of a voice is veritably Pavarotti-like compared to the collection of insubstantial wavers paraded here.

The result, then, is basic Allen fluff. Most of all, it’s hard for us little people to take seriously the minor issues of rich folk who could buy and sell all of us several times over.

Even so, Allen being Allen, there still are some nice touches. Norton (an Oscar nominee for “Primal Fear”) does a perfect impersonation of Allen in his younger days. Roth steps into the upper-crust world of Hawn and Alda as if it were Christmas and every woman he sees is his personal gift to unwrap. Narrator Lyone provides the film with the adolescent hope that all situations can be motivated and all stories will turn out happily.

The problem is that Allen seems to have visited familiar territory one or five times too many (see “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Husbands and Wives,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Manhattan Murder Mystery” among others).

What Allen uses to set “Everyone Says I Love You” apart is the music. And the singing. By non-singers.

Too bad it all feels like a gimmick.

, DataTimes MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “Everyone Says I Love You” **-1/2 Locations: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen, Nathasha Lyone, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Gaby Hoffman, Natalie Portman, David Ogden Stiers Running time: 1:45 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Everyone Says I Love You:” Henry Sheehan/The Orange County Register: A strange film whose best moments are almost entirely at odds with its stated purpose, “Everyone Says I Love You” marks Woody Allen’s attempt to make a musical without professional singers or dancers among his leading players. It’s an idea with a brief history of disasters behind it, including Peter Bogdanovich’s “At Long Last Love,” which was almost a career-ender, and James Brooks’ “I’ll Do Anything,” which was released only after the singing was cut out. It has to be said up front that Allen’s movie is far more successful than these others, largely because the writer-director, who also takes a leading part in the movie, has a much cannier sense of what constitutes the proper world of a musical. Matt Wolf/Associated Press: Once you strip away the period songs, and the alternately goofball and giddy choreography of Broadway veteran Graciela Daniele, the film amounts to familiar Allen fare. Robert W. Butler/The Kansas City Star: Allen eschews flashy cutting for long, luxurious takes in the Fred Astaire tradition. The result is a funny, highly enjoyable film with virtually nothing on its mind but pleasure. Jay Carr/The Boston Globe: At its best “Everyone Says I Love You” does more than just land on its feet - it’s airborne.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “Everyone Says I Love You” **-1/2 Locations: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen, Nathasha Lyone, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Gaby Hoffman, Natalie Portman, David Ogden Stiers Running time: 1:45 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Everyone Says I Love You:” Henry Sheehan/The Orange County Register: A strange film whose best moments are almost entirely at odds with its stated purpose, “Everyone Says I Love You” marks Woody Allen’s attempt to make a musical without professional singers or dancers among his leading players. It’s an idea with a brief history of disasters behind it, including Peter Bogdanovich’s “At Long Last Love,” which was almost a career-ender, and James Brooks’ “I’ll Do Anything,” which was released only after the singing was cut out. It has to be said up front that Allen’s movie is far more successful than these others, largely because the writer-director, who also takes a leading part in the movie, has a much cannier sense of what constitutes the proper world of a musical. Matt Wolf/Associated Press: Once you strip away the period songs, and the alternately goofball and giddy choreography of Broadway veteran Graciela Daniele, the film amounts to familiar Allen fare. Robert W. Butler/The Kansas City Star: Allen eschews flashy cutting for long, luxurious takes in the Fred Astaire tradition. The result is a funny, highly enjoyable film with virtually nothing on its mind but pleasure. Jay Carr/The Boston Globe: At its best “Everyone Says I Love You” does more than just land on its feet - it’s airborne.


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