Sunday, September 13, 2015

Woody Allen's Musical



In 1996, Woody Allen released his film called Everyone Says I Love You. It is his only musical that he has made to date. The actors were not told that it was a musical until after signing their contracts. The title comes from a song in the 1932 film by the Marx Brothers called Horse Feathers. Woody is a fan of Groucho and his brothers, and there are references to them multiple times in the film. At one point there is a party where the guests wear Groucho eyebrows and mustaches and carry fake cigars.

The cast is truly star-studded. For this film, Woody Allen signed Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts and more. Many actors want to work with Allen due to his long career as a master writer/director and actor. He is admired by many for his work and creative vision. The total budget for the film was just $20 million, peanuts by Hollywood standards. The cast must have worked for a lower salary than they are accostomed to with this modest budget. One young star in the film was a 15 year old Natalie Portman. At this point, this was just her fifth film. She had already worked with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in Heat. The same year that Everyone Says I Love You was released, her film Beautiful Girls hit theatres. That was another impressive cast, starring the likes of Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Michael Rappaport.

There is a reason that this movie felt like an old school Fred Astaire style musical from the golden days of Hollywood. Many of the songs date from the Depression era, if not earlier. A few of them include these.

Just You, Just Me-1929
Everyone Says I Love You-1932
My Baby Just Cares for Me-1930
I'm Through with Love-1931
Cuddle Up a Little Closer-1908

Music has always played a key role in Allen's work. Many of his films have a classic jazz soundtrack. For his film Manhattan, the music of George Gershwin was featured extensively. He used Rhapsody in Blue for his opening credit sequence which featured black and white scenes of Manhattan, wrapping up with an unforgettable fireworks scene. Everyone Says I Love You is filled with gorgeous songs. Some are toe-tappers and some are slow and thoughtful, but it is masterful the way they are intertwined within the storyline. The movie features singing and dancing scenes, and all actors performed their own singing with the exception of one, Drew Barrymore.

The story is peppered with scenes of melancholy and mirth. It is a family story, about upper class New Yorkers who struggle with relationships. Woody Allen's character falls for Julia Roberts' character. Drew Barrymore has ups and downs in her romantic life. Some scenes in the film were shot overseas, in Paris and Venice. This was a departure for Allen since it was his first film in over 20 years to be shot outside New York. But, in his future work, Allen would shoot many films in Europe.

Woody Allen's personal life has been tabloid fodder for years. I certainly do not endorse the choices he has made. He is an odd fellow but a brilliant artist nonetheless. This film is one of his best, up there with Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and more. It is a light, feel good movie with songs that you will find yourself humming. Check it out, especially if you enjoy musicals.

* Some information from imdb.com.


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