Bullets Over Broadway
- Woody Allen
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Shayne is misunderstood by everyone but his wife (Mary-Louise Parker) and friends (particularly Sheldon Flender, played by Rob Reiner), but his agent (Jack Warden) somehow trusts his new play, and finds a way to produce it by casting the girlfriend of a mafia boss, Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli), in a pivotal role, thus getting the necessary funding.
The woman in question is Olive (Jennifer Tilly), a dreadfully untalented showgirl who’s also loud and obnoxious, and what’s even worse, believes she deserves recognition. David’s conflict is quite clear: He knows he’s sacrificing art on behalf of commercial success, but there’s not much he can do about it, and hit man Cheech (Chazz Palminteri) is there to make sure he doesn’t even try to diminish Olive’s role.
Luckily, a good cast surrounds Olive, namely flamboyant but excessive Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest), charming but compulsively glutton Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent), and ever-joyful Eden Brent (Tracey Ullman), among others.
Not much more should be said about the plot of Bullets Over Broadway if spoilers are to be avoided. Suffice it to say that it’s got enough surprises to keep the viewer not only interested but, well, surprised. The most notable one concerns Cheech and an unexpected gift he possesses, which changes the course of the story, and even makes David reflect about his own talent.
Woody Allen brought to the world in 1994 one of his most delicious period comedies of all time. Through a 1920s Broadway setting, it criticizes universal show business, and the constant sacrificing of art for commercial purposes. It’s also a deep analysis of some artists’ incapability to understand their own flaws, and the importance of listening to other people’s opinion in a humble way. And despite its depth, and its moving drama, Bullets Over Broadway is a hilarious comedy, never failing to entertain even for a minute.
The performances are brilliant. Cusack is great in a Woody Allen type, but it’s the people around him who really shine: Weist, one of Woody’s favorites, is deliciously over-the-top as a Norma Desmond of sorts; Tilly is perfection as the dumb, untalented girl with high aspirations; and Palminteri proves to be an actor capable of transmitting tragedy and hilarity without effort, in his riveting performance as a man with hidden layers. These are the spotlights, but everyone in the cast is amazing.
Handled as a low-key film (as expected from Woody), with a nice choice of period songs, and handsome settings and costumes, this is one of Allen’s most notable works of recent years.
“Hey, look who’s here: The big Broadway success. I don’t write hits. My plays are art. They’re written specifically to go unproduced.”
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