The famous Shakespearean actor, Kenneth Branagh, plays the Woody Allen
part in Woody's latest film, CELEBRITY. Kenneth Branagh plays the
story's protagonist, a magazine reporter and celebrity groupie named Lee
Branagh has carefully trained himself to sound exactly like Woody, right
down to Woody's fast-paced, rambling cadence. It's an eerie performance
that makes one yearn for the real McCoy. Still, Branagh makes a
commendable attempt in a miscast part.
The story about a group of vain, amoral celebrities is a breezy comedy
that provides several nice laughs even if it never amounts to much of
anything. Basically, the characters play a two-hour game of musical
beds. The movie could have used some of those opera supertitles giving
the current pairings, as it is frequently hard to keep straight who is
currently sleeping with whom.
Filmed in a handsome black and white by Sven Nykvist and overlaid with
one of Woody's typical jazz scores full of bittersweet melodies, the
relaxed picture doesn't have the pretensions of many Allen films and is
even fairly angst-free.
The film contains such a cornucopia of acting talent that it begins to
get in the way of the storyline. Trimmed of many of the minor
characters and cameos, the story could have had more punch. Did we have
to have the scene of Donald Trump bragging that he just purchased St.
Patrick's Cathedral and was going to replace it with a beautiful
skyscraper? And wouldn't a half-dozen characters being really funny
trump 3 dozen performing hit-and-run comedy?
Melanie Griffith plays a famous and married actress who has very
physical relations with Lee within an hour after meeting him. She
explains that the form of sex they are having doesn't break her marriage
vows. (I think we've heard that one before.) Lee, who is one of the
movie's most fidelity-challenged characters, enjoys every minute of it.
And then he's off on his next pursuit.
As soon as Lee lays eyes on the gorgeous supermodel played by Charlize
Theron, he knows he has to have her. She explains to him at a party
that she has "a weakness, not a flaw," that causes her to go orgasmic
when she is touched anywhere on her body.
A middle-aged couple at the party asks the supermodel for her autograph.
"I use your exercise tape," the woman says to her. "So do I!" her
husband pops up, almost slobbering. "But I exercise to it," the wife
tells her husband with a look of disgust.
During the movie, Lee gets divorced from his wife, Robin, played by Judy
Davis. After the divorce he runs into her and her boyfriend (Joe
Mantegna) at a press screening of a new movie. The screening is
complete with fresh flowers and champagne in the lobby. (Real press
screenings are not quite like that, although we do sometimes get free
The screening is of a black-and-white, arty movie by a "pretentious"
director. There is a famous critic there who, we are told, used to hate
every movie, but, since he got a young, big-bosomed wife, he likes them
Robin, who suspects that her first marriage was destroyed partly through
her lack of sexual skills, goes to a professional to learn better sexual
techniques. The resulting banana scene contains some delicious physical
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a horribly unsympathetic character. A star
whose fame has gone to his head, he is first seen while screaming
obscenities as he abuses his girlfriend in their fancy hotel room.
A never cuter Winona Ryder plays Lee's last conquest. She warns him
early on that she has a wandering eye, but he's still in shock when she
follows through on her proclivities.
The film has very abrupt ending. It is almost as if Woody said, "whoops
we've gone on too long. Cut. It's a wrap." It's too bad that before
he wrapped it, he didn't give it more focus and trim it some. Still,
even if it is just a piece of fluff, it is entertaining.
CELEBRITY runs 1:53. It is rated R for sex, profanity, and drug usage
and would be acceptable for older and mature teenagers.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes