Just you, just me.
Let's find a cozy spot,
Where no one can see.
I'll admit it... I had a silly grin on my face throughout the 'other' movie musical of 1997, "Everyone Says I Love You", a Woody Allen film in the tradition of those grand old Hollywood musicals of yesteryear. Sporting some nostalgic production design, memorable musical numbers, and an all-star cast, this is easily one of my favorite Woody Allen pics.
It's better to be the leaver than the leavee, 'cause the leaver leaves you know, but the leavee is left, which is terrible.
The story focuses on the family of D.J. (Natasha Lyonne), who is also the narrator of the story. Everyone in her family is undergoing some sort of a neuroses. Her father, Joe (Woody Allen) is divorced from her mother, Steffi (Goldie Hawn), but they have still remained good friends, despite Steffi remarrying. Bob (Alan Alda) is Steffi's new husband, and together they have raised a family for the past fifteen years. There's Skylar (Drew Barrymore), D.J.'s biological sister, who's just become engaged to Holden (Edward Norton), a young lawyer employed at Bob's practice. Scott (Lukas Haas) is the stepbrother who's pulled an 'Alex Keaton' by openly embracing the merits of neo-conservatism, to the consternation of his parents. The two younger stepsisters, Lane (Gaby Hoffman, lately of "Volcano") and Laura (Natalie Portman of "Heat") are a pair of ranging teenage hormones on the loose, roaming the streets after the same boy.
What about Carol? Remember Carol what's-her-name? What was her last name?
Carol was a poet and a member of MENSA.
She was a heroin addict!
She was also a heroin addict... I thought it was insulin... how was I to know?
The story proceeds on several fronts. The first subplot concerns the arrangements for the wedding of Skylar and Holden. The second subplot concerns Joe, who is despondent and suicidal following a breakup with his girlfriend back in Paris. He returns to New York to get advice from Steffi, to whom he still has feelings for. While on vacation with D.J. in Venice, Joe is instantly smitten with the radiant Von (Julia Roberts), and in the great tradition of the romantic comedy, he pretends to be Von's dream lover in order to seduce her, using private information misappropriated from Von's therapist, who happens to be the mother of D.J.'s best friend. Finally, Steffi, who is a 'guilty' liberal for having lived a privileged life, advocates for the release of convict Charles Ferry (Tim Roth)-- and he instantly takes a liking to Skylar. Before you know it, weddings are canceled, love is pursued, soul-searching is done, and many songs are sung.
As your father, I forbid you to see this man Charles Ferry! You will marry Holden as planned! As head of this household, I command it! I decree it! Thou shalt wed thy intended!
Okay, come on, let's get a drink. You're sounding tiresomely biblical.
Yes, this is after all a musical, and it literally is vibrant with harmony, with it enthusiastically bursting out to great comic effect. Though the sight of common New Yorkers bursting into song or carrying a chorus in humdrum settings is amusing, the novelty does wear off pretty fast. Fortunately, Allen does inject the film with both moments of hilarity, such as the wildly inappropriate song and dance numbers during a funeral and in a hospital emergency room, and magic, most notably a heart-warming dance between Joe and Steffi in Paris, with Steffi gliding softly through the night air. Like the other movie musical of 1997, "Evita", many of the actors in ESILY actually sing on the soundtrack, instead of being dubbed over . The effect is successful for some, most notably for Goldie Hawn and Edward Norton, and not so successful for others, such as Julie Roberts and Drew Barrymore (who was actually dubbed over due to her lack of vocal talents).
The rest of the film is vintage Woody Allen: witty observations on the relationships between men and women, and all the associated neuroses that come with them. The dialogue is rife with bright one-liners, though the convoluted story and large ensemble cast prevent Allen from seeing the subplots to fruition, with somewhat forced resolutions that are brushed off a little to quickly. However, it was nice to see some supernatural elements in the story, one of my favorite aspects of Woody Allen movies (such as the Greek chorus in "Mighty Aphrodite"), most notably the aforementioned funeral home musical number and the dance between Steffi and Joe at the film's end.
"Everyone Says I Love You" is not riproariously funny, so it won't have you rolling on the floor. However, it does have a delicious, yet subtle tongue-in-cheek humor that will guarantee a smile as you watch the story unfold, and maybe have you humming by film's end.