Saturday, April 26, 2008

Everyone Says I Can't Sing

Woody Allen's great. I admire how prolific he is. He's made some movies that I think are just thoroughly brilliant (Annie Hall, Match Point). But even his missteps can be really interesting.

His 1996 musical "Everyone Says I Love You" is one of those fascinating blunders. Watching it again, after many years, I can see that it contains just about everything you could love and hate in a Woody Allen movie.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Woody manages to get the strangest casts, so it's worth breaking down this cast list:

Alan Alda and Goldie Hawn are married to each other.

Their children:
Lukas Haas
Natalie Portman
Gaby Hoffman
Drew Barrymore

Ed Norton is engaged to Drew Barrymore.

Woody Allen plays Goldie Hawn's ex-husband. They're on really good terms.

Natasha Lyonne is Woody and Goldie's daughter, and she narrates.

Julia Roberts plays a married woman who inexplicably has an affair with Woody Allen.

Oh, who is she married to...?
Robert Knepper from Prison Break & Carnivàle.

Drew Barrymore briefly falls for an ex-con played by Tim Roth, which gives us an opportunity to have a jail-break scene featuring none other than...


(Strange as it is seeing Tony Sirico in a light rom-com musical directed by Woody Allen, this was his THIRD movie with Woody Allen. BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and MIGHTY APHRODITE came first. After this, he was in DECONSTRUCTING HARRY and CELEBRITY. He must be real easy to work with.)

And if all those names weren't enough for you, we even get a cameo from Billy Crudup. He plays a guy that Natasha Lyonne briefly falls for at an airport. And he actually gets to sing a song.

Okay, now that we've dropped all the names, let's deal with the singing...

Allen took a number of pre-existing songs and re-purposed them into this original story. I like that he made all the actors sing their own songs, even if they couldn't sing very well. There's something more HONEST in that than just having them lip-sync to someone else's prettier voice.

That said, the weaker voices aren't *exploited* particularly well. If a person with a weak voice is choosing to express him/herself through SINGING, there should be a dramatic resonance to their weaker voices. But it doesn't come off that way. Just comes across as weak singing here.

Surprisingly, the person with the weakest singing voice turns out to be Woody Allen himself! You'd think if he had the audacity to write, direct and cast himself in a musical, he'd be able to sing his one song okay. His singing scene plays like that one person at karaoke who finally, begrudgingly—after one-too-many cocktails—agrees to sing a song... and then softly murmurs throughout the whole thing so you can barely hear him.

But there are some fun musical numbers, such as this one featuring kids on Halloween:

(Check out the "chinky" kids at 25 seconds in...)

Most of the songs are frothy and pointless. Much like one of those old time musicals they don't make anymore. There's a lot of great technical work and lovely bits of choreography, like the most memorable scene where Goldie Hawn (who has the best voice) flies through air in an elegant one-shot dance sequence with Woody.

And Woody is a very intelligent writer. He explores some interesting themes of "love" and "infatuation" and "projection" here. Creating some depth without being too heavy about it.


(it's a big "but")

... I've got to say, it is REALLY hard to care about his characters and the unapologetically fancy, repellently insulated, Upper East Side world in which they live and die.

It didn't bother me so much before, but now, over a decade since I've graduated from college, having worked in the real world and struggled with making ends meet... I look at the characters in "Everyone Says I Love You" and I just want to bash their stupid faces in.

I realize that it's a musical and exists in a sort of "musical fantasy world", but this is a problem with many of Allen's films. They reflect Allen's own insulated world. "Everyone" takes place in the modern day, but it looks like a period piece. The characters don't look or act as if they've been touched by the modern day. They don't have to worry about money. They're rich enough to navel-gaze through life.

And I just want to bash their stupid faces in.


Speaking of wanting to bash stupid faces in...

NetFlix is poised to dick over Blu-Ray customers.


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