Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
Starring: Hank Azaria, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen, Michael Lerner, Joe Mantegna, Bebe Neuwirth, Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron / Director: Woody Allen
“Celebrity,” Woody Allen’s 29th feature film, follows the same formula as most of the last 28: it looks at the romantic troubles of thinly-veiled character based off of Woody Allen through the design of a larger social issue. The Woody Allen character is Lee Simon, played by the English actor Kenneth Branagh with a perfect American accent. The larger social issue is, quite obviously, celebrities.
The character hits the mark much more often than the issue. Branagh is able to portray the cheating, lying, whimpering Lee as a little less than likeable, something that Allen himself was never able to do with his characters. In fact, very few of the characters in the movie are played with much sympathy, giving the ensemble a realism that most casts today don’t have. The characters are monsters, I suppose, eaten by celebritism.
Unfortunately, the film rarely takes off on the issue. For a 10-minute set of scenes where Leonardo DiCaprio joins the movie as an oversexed, overpampered movie star, there is life in the screenplay. Elsewhere, what Allen says about celebrities is less than interesting and certainly less than profound. This is one of the few Woody Allen movies that feels like it could have been written by someone else.
This is almost certainly Allen’s most vulgar and sexually explicit of his recent films; as such, there are scenes that are almost certain to offend Christian audiences. Examples include at least three instances of implied sexual behaviour (although nothing is seen), non-stop use of the f-word by DiCaprio’s character, and a vendor selling a statue of Jesus in which the hands bleed at the push of the button. However, these incidents and others are slightly redeemable by the fact that most of these actions are portrayed as harmful and destroying. Allen isn’t asking us to empathize with the characters. They exist more as a warning: do not what they do.
Ultimately, this is not the best start for Christians looking to visit the world of Woody Allen. “Annie Hall”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” were all much better films with far less offensive to a Christian audience. Those who like Allen will likely find much to enjoy in “Celebrity”, but those who are also Christian will certainly find much to dislike.