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
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