Everyone Says I Love You

Weekly Alibi

DIRECTED BY: Woody Allen

REVIEWED: 01-22-97

Why a musical? Yes, Everyone Says I Love You, the latest from Woody Allen, is indeed a musical. And this choice by the great auteur makes little logical sense on the face of it, and even less after viewing the film. Allen himself has told the press that he made a musical simply because he likes the genre. But sometimes imitation is not the highest form of flattery.

The plot revolves around Allen's usual cast of characters: neurotic, upper-class New Yorkers. The narrator, Columbia student DJ (Natasha Lyonne), tells the story of her extended family (mother, stepfather, half sisters, stepbrother, biological father) and their tears and travails in the heady territory of love. Biological Dad Joe (played by Allen) can't seem to find the right woman, while mom and stepdad (Goldie Hawn and Alan Alda) have settled into connubial bliss. DJ herself flits from one obsession to another, while her sister prepares to marry the handsome yet predictable Holden (Edward Norton, late of The People vs. Larry Flynt).

During the conflicts that ensue, the ensemble goes on the usual roller coaster ride of emotion, sometimes declaring, "My Baby Cares for Me," or "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All?" or "I'm Thru With Love." One of the film's biggest problems is that in a musical comedy, which this is set up to be, the songs make or break the audience's interest. With a cast of mostly amateur singers (such as Julia Roberts and Allen himself), the songs simply don't have the vocal clout to maintain themselves. Though there is a surreal pleasure in seeing the kooky musical numbers take place in jewelry stores, hospitals and even funeral parlors, there's really not much special about the production numbers to keep your attention.

Allen is such the consummate filmmaker, however, that Everyone Says I Love You still has its moments of sublime emotional warmth. Allen's character Joe manages to seduce the magnificent Von (played by Julia Roberts) by following daughter DJ's coaching. DJ knows all of Von's innermost secrets because her best friend's mother is Von's therapist, and the girls had previously entertained themselves listening to Von's desires and fears exposed during sessions. But Von finds she doesn't need her fantasy man once she finally gets him, and the scene in which she tells Joe goodbye is full of subtle and painful realism.

The musical format, though, doesn't do much to add to Allen's familiar story of New Yorkers and their mental quirks. Because the musical numbers are so lackluster, it seems like Allen is cheating himself and the audience by taking time away from character and plot development. The old standards he uses are wonderful songs, but the emotions they express are not particularly sophisticated. Psychic complexity is something that Allen has excelled at portraying in his other films, and Everyone Says I Love You could have had the same heft given the subject matter. While the film is punchy and fun--Tim Roth is particularly good at playing a supposedly rehabilitated ex-convict--it's also lightweight and frothy. Everyone Says I Love You remains a tasty but unfulfilling treat.

--Angie Drobnic

Capsule Reviews
Everyone Says I Love You

Other Films by Woody Allen
Bullets Over Broadway
Deconstructing Harry
Mighty Aphrodite
Sweet and Lowdown

Film Vault Suggested Links
Simply Irresistible
You've Got Mail
Grumpier Old Men

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