Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

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Bullets Over Broadway: Directed by Woody Allen. With John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Chazz Palminteri. In New York in 1928, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.

“Sadly, Iu0026#39;ve been let down by most of Woody Allenu0026#39;s recent comedies. So it was most rewarding indeed to see the Woodman back again true to form (after a lengthy drought) with 1994u0026#39;s Bullets Over Broadway.u0026quot; Fun, foamy, and clever, it has everything weu0026#39;ve come to love and expect from the man.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWhile u0026quot;Take the Money and Runu0026quot; and u0026quot;Bananasu0026quot; first turned trendy audiences on to his unique brand of improvisational, hit-and-miss comedy episodes, and the more neurotic, self-examining cult hits like u0026quot;Annie Hallu0026quot; and u0026quot;Manhattanu0026quot; cemented his Oscar-winning relationship with Hollywood, the comedy genius has stumbled mightily in this last decade. Attempting to contemporize his image with the coarse, foul-mouthed antics of a Coen or Farrelly brother (see u0026quot;Mighty Aphroditeu0026quot;) is simply beneath him, and has been about as productive as Stevie Wonder taking a turn at hip-hop. Moreover, casting himself as a 65-year-old romantic protagonist with love interests young enough to be his grandchildren (see u0026quot;Curse of the Jade Scorpionu0026quot;) has left a noticeably bad aftertaste of late. With u0026quot;Bullets Over Broadway,u0026quot; however, Allen goes back to basics and wisely avoids the pitfalls of excessive toilet humor and self-aggrandizing casting, and gives us a light, refreshing bit of whimsical escapism. Woody may not be found on screen here, but his presence is felt throughout. Though less topical and analytical than his trademark films, this vehicle brings back a purer essence of Woody and might I say an early innocence hard-pressed to find these days in his work.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eJohn Cusack (can this guy do no wrong?) plays a struggling jazz-era playwright desperate for a Broadway hit who is forced to sell out to a swarthy, aging king-pin (played to perfection by Joe Viterelli) who is looking to finance a theatrical showcase for his much-younger bimbo girlfirend (Jennifer Tilly, in a tailor-made role). The writer goes through a hellish rehearsal period sacrificing his words, not to mention his moral and artistic scruples, in order to appease his mob producers who know zilch about putting on a play. The rehearsal scenes alone are worth the price of admission.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAside from Allenu0026#39;s clever writing, brisk pace and lush, careful attention to period detail, he has assembled his richest ensemble cast yet with a host of hysterically funny characters in spontaneous banter roaming in and about the proceedings. Cusack is his usual rock-solid self in the panicky, schelmiel role normally reserved for Woody. But even he is dwarfed by the likes of this once-in-a-lifetime supporting cast. Jennifer Tilly, with her doll-like rasp, is hilariously grating as the vapid, virulent, and thoroughly untalented moll. Usually counted on to play broad, one-dimensional, sexually belligerent dames, never has Tilly been give such golden material to feast on, putting her Olive Neal right up there in the u0026#39;top 5u0026#39; fun-filled film floozies of all time, alongside Jean Hagenu0026#39;s Lina Lamont and Lesley Ann Warrenu0026#39;s Norma Cassady. Virile, menacing Chazz Palminteri as the fleshy-lipped Cheech, a u0026quot;dees, dem and dosu0026quot; guard dog, reveals great comic prowess while affording his pin-striped hit man some touching overtones. Dianne Wiest, who has won bookend support Oscars in Woody Allen pictures (for this and for u0026quot;Hannah and Her Sistersu0026quot;) doesnu0026#39;t miss a trick as the outre theatre doyenne Helen Sinclair, whose life is as grand and exaggerated off-stage as it is on. Her comic brilliance is on full, flamboyant display, stealing every scene sheu0026#39;s in. Tracey Ullman is a pinch-faced delight as the exceedingly anal, puppy-doting ingenue, while Jim Broadbent as a fusty stick-in-the-mud gets his shining moments when his actoru0026#39;s appetite for both food and women get hilariously out of hand. Mary-Louise Parker, as Cusacku0026#39;s cast-off mate, gets the shortest end of the laughing stick, but lends some heart and urgency to the proceedings.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWhile the play flirts with a burlesque-styled capriciousness, there is an undercoating of seriousness and additional character agendas that keeps the cast from falling into one-note caricatures. And, as always, Woodyu0026#39;s spot-on selection of period music is nonpareil. With healthy does of flapper-era Gershwin, Rodgers u0026amp; Hart, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, not to mention the flavorful vocal stylings of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, Allen, with customary finesse, affectionately transports us back to the glitzy, gin-peddling era of Prohibition and slick Runyonesque antics.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eI remember the times when the opening of a new Woody Allen film was a main event. As such, u0026quot;Bullets Over Broadwayu0026quot; is a comedy valentine to such days. In any respect, itu0026#39;s a winner all the way, especially for Woodyphiles.”


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