Saturday, 11 April 2009

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

It's been rather a mixed bag of viewing over the last few days, but too soon after my last multiple entry to do another; it included a couple of golden oldies, a pair of poorish French flicks, the penultimate 'Romance' biting the dust, and the remnants of another uninvited series of TV 'Action Thrillers'. So it was a toss-up between the above movie and a British kiddie fantasy "The Water Horse" (2007), which had its moments, of a lonely lad raising a baby "Nessie" in the Scottish lochs during World War II. However whereas I would probably resist viewing the latter again, I think this was my third time for the Woody Allen gem.

I've written before about people droning on about the latest Allen movie either not being funny or alternatively "a return to form", but this one is something of a winner on all levels. The director has always managed to attract high-powered casts for his films, which must say something in his favour. Here we have him playing a sports writer married to Helena Bonham Carter (not particularly good chemistry there); they have the opportunity to adopt a new-born as she is far too busy with her work to consider having one of her own. The child is greatly loved by both parents, and so handsome and bright that Woody begins to wonder about how marvellous his birth parents must be. Enter porn actress and prostitute Mira Sorvino playing a tart with a heart who is not the brightest bulb in the pack. The bimbo-izing of her actual striking good looks and keen intelligence earned her a best supporting Oscar.

Woody takes it upon himself to try to reform her and find her a suitable husband, partly to insure against the time when his son seeks to find out more about his mother (the father could have been one of hundreds) and partly because of his genuine concern for another vulnerable human being. He doesn't want the offered sex as a reward, but rather begins to truly care for her future, although thicky boxer Michael Rapaport proves not to be the answer. All of this action is punctuated by a latter-day Greek chorus in Manhattan's Central Park, including the likes of F. Murray Abraham, Olympia Dukakis, and David Ogden Stiers, commenting on the action, offering some memorable funny lines, and eventually breaking into a full-fledged Broadway musical number -- a clever modern usage of an ancient dramatic device.

The script is witty, the final irony of the tale not foreseen, and a good time is guaranteed to any viewer who doesn't believe the myth of Woody's decline.

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