Woody Allen's slight romantic comedy/mildly barbed satire about moviemaking chronicles the travails of a washed-up art-film director who gets one last chance to redeem his career. The hitch: His ex-wife is the producer and her fiancé is reluctantly bankrolling the project. Once a critics' darling, Val Waxman (Allen) is reduced to shooting deodorant commercials...read more
Woody Allen's slight romantic comedy/mildly barbed satire about moviemaking chronicles the travails of a washed-up art-film director who gets one last chance to redeem his career. The hitch: His ex-wife is the producer and her fiancé is reluctantly bankrolling the project. Once a critics' darling, Val Waxman (Allen) is reduced to shooting deodorant commercials (he can't even get TV movies because Peter Bogdanovich is first in line) until his agent, Al (Mark Rydell), calls with big news. Val jumps at the chance to direct "The City Never Sleeps," a New York-based remake of a classic noir thriller, even after learning that he'll be working with ex-wife Ellie (Téa Leoni), who left him for Galaxie Pictures honcho Hal (Treat Williams), the consummate Hollywood player. Val still loves Ellie and seethes over her betrayal: How could the woman he thought shared his vitriolic disdain for all things not-Manhattan have left him for shallow Hal and a gilded SoCal life of pools, palm trees and herbalists? Of course, Val's living with none-too-talented tootsie Lori (Debra Messing), but that's only because he's too neurotic to sleep alone. Indulging his legendary self-destructive streak, Val hires a profligate art director (Isaac Mizrahi), a Chinese cinematographer (Lu Yu) who doesn't speak English, and makes noises about wanting to shoot in B&W and load up the soundtrack with vintage pop standards that don't exactly lend themselves to cross-promotion. And to top it all off, Val's inevitable pre-production jitters escalate into an attack of hysterical blindness his hypochondria is also notorious. And so the farce begins: Val starts shooting even though he can't see. Ellie tries to convince Hal everything's going well as the cinematographer throws fits, starlet Sharon Bates (Tiffani Thiessen) puts the moves on Val, cutthroat reporter Andrea Ford (Jodie Markell) snoops around for dirt, and senior Galaxie flunkie Ed (George Hamilton) hangs around doing whatever it is that deeply tanned studio flunkies do. There are some funny ideas here, many of which spring from Allen poking none-too-barbed fun at his own reputation as a high-strung egomaniac. But he seems to have forgotten that comedy is all about timing, letting individual scenes meander often to accommodate his own stammering monologues and giving viewers far too much downtime in which to consider the staleness of many of the film's gags.
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