Magazine article Insight on the News

Everyone Says I Love You

Magazine article Insight on the News

Everyone Says I Love You

Article excerpt

Woody Allen has churned out another movie, the one a pseudomusical in which his stars sing - sort of. Everyone Says I Love You is a frivolous romp in an anachronistic genre better left to Gene Kelly.

Woody Allen, whose 26 features since Take the Money and Run in 1969 make him the most prolific and, perhaps, the most prestigious filmmaker of his generation, hasn't been a complete stranger comedy

Recall: Diane Keaton had attractive song interludes in Annie Hall. Gersh win melodies helped elevate and lyricize Manhattan. Pop tunes from the 1940s were integral to Radio Days, which also made room for a Keaton rendition of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." There were clever, delightful musical snippets in Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo and even Mighty Aphrodite, which transformed a Greek chorus into a Broadway chorus.

So it's not as if Allen approached Everyone Says I Love You, his "first" movie musical, without some promising credentials and affinities. Unfortunately, he reproduces a delightful but anachronistic genre in a halfhearted, amateurish fashion. (Everyone, set in a fancifully posh New York, Paris and Venice, opened in December in New York and Los Angeles for one week to qualify it for the 1996 Academy Awards; the national release remains eccentrically distant: Jan. 31, 1997.)

Evidently, this quixotic (and often blundering) attempt to revive a tradition envisions the genre bouncing back without its most conspicuous attributes: singing and dancing prowess. Indeed, Allen says he tried to conceal from prospective cast members the fact that he planned to shoot a musical.

"I'm not above tricking my actors," he says. "I didn't want them to think they'd be in a musical. It didn't matter to me if they could sing or dance. I just wanted natural, spontaneous reactions as they'd glide from dialogue into melody.... Then they could sing with all the warts and scars showing, without any preparation."

Allen makes no secret of his aversion to rehearsals: He believes they interfere with spontaneous interplay in front of the camera and points to himself as the prime example of the disarming amateurism that may or may not prove irresistible to his public. "I personify what I wanted to do," he says. "I resolved to croak out a song as best as I could do. I didn't give myself a whole song. I took pity on the audience and settled for about half a song. Yes, that's really my best take. The best of 15, as I recall."

Those other 14 must have been brutal, since Allen barely is audible on the few bars of "I'm Through With Love" that he dares to botch. Cast member Julia Roberts conks out just as pitifully on "All My Life," and Drew Barrymore ends up being dubbed by a highschool girl named Olivia Hayman on "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All?" According to Barrymore, her untutored singing voice proved "too deep and raspy" to match the soft and ditzy profile of her character.

The problem with allowing slack musical performances, on grounds of ultranaturalism or ultraspontaneity or ultrawhatever, is that they become an embarrassing burden. Allen's prerogatives shouldn't excuse him from exercising common sense. When people with musical-comedy experience are cast in a musical - in this case, Allen, Goldie Hawn and Billy Crudup - it's not only prudent but decent to provide them with more song-and-dance interludes than rank amateurs. …

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