Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bullets Over Broadway: DVD Review

Chatting with Alec Baldwin on his radio show Here’s the Thing, Chris Rock weighed in on why Woody Allen is beyond compare. “Put it this way,” he said. “The average great filmmaker has about four good movies, right? Woody has about 12. Like great, and then he probably has about 10 more really good ones.” Lightly sidestepping the argument over whether Allen actually has a dozen great movies, we can say with some certainty that 1994’s Bullets over Broadway is one of those really good ones. Though it’s funny and well-acted, and has great affection for the Broadway of yore, it stops short of greatness because it isn’t that much of a stretch to imagine someone else directing the film. On the other hand, you can see the initials “WA” on every frame of Manhattan, Love and Death, Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris.

In Bullets Over Broadway, Allen returns, as he does ever so often, to the 1920s. David (John Cusack) is a playwright desperate for a hit and, at the same time, determined not to sell out. His resolve is tested when his producer tells him that a mob boss has agreed to finance his production, provided he find a part for his moll Olive (Jennifer Tilley). David succumbs, but his problems are compounded when his lead actor develops an eating problem, and he falls in love with the play’s headliner, a prima donna named Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest). Worst of all, the mob has sent a minder, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), who has strong opinions on the play’s structure.

That Cheech turns out to be more of a natural talent than David is the movie’s best joke. Leave that aside, and you have a film that’s madcap, but predictable. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences went overboard and nominated it for a staggering seven Oscars. It ended up winning only Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest doing a comic version of Gloria Swanson from Billy Wilder’s classic Sunset Blvd.

No comments: