Pick of the Week: Everyone Says I Love You
Length: 101 minutes
MPAA: R for one use of strong language
I loved the Woody Allen musical comedy Everyone Says I Love You on the big screen a few years back, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was released on DVD a couple of weeks ago. This gave me the opportunity of giving the movie another look to see if it really was as magical as I had remembered.
Everyone Says I Love You is Allens imaginative, modern take on classic film musicals. He combines sensibilities of the musicals of the 30s and 40s--including old standards sung by the cast members (except for Drew Barrymore, whose singing voice is dubbed)--with a story set in the 1990s. Absurd as it may seem, Allen somehow manages to seamlessly blend his trademark angst with the feeling of make-believe of the old musicals. What makes Everyone Says I Love You work is what made the classic musicals work--more than anything else theyre about a lighter-than-air feeling of enchantment.
A Valentine to New York
Everyone Says I Love You tells a tale of the shortness of life and the sweetness of love. The film's slender plot centers around what is roughly eight months in the life of an affluent extended New York family as its various members fall in and out of love. The movie explores different aspects of romance as seen from various characters points of view, providing delicious variations on this bittersweet theme. It's not a perfect film, but more important than perfection is the feeling of almost weightless joy that stayed with me after seeing it.
The movie opens with a stunning sequence of shots on Manhattans Upper East Side. Its springtime, and we meet the first in a series of romantically challenged couples as Holden (Edward Norton) sings "Just You, Just Me" to Skylar (Drew Barrymore) in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then three nannies pushing baby carriages down the street join in the singing, soon to be followed in song by an elderly lady walking along with her caregiver, then a panhandler, and eventually even the mannequins in an Yves Saint Laurent display begin to dance to the music.
An Atypical Family
Unifying the potentially confusing intertwined love stores and interconnected lives in the movie, a narrator explains it all. Shes DJ (Natasha Lyonne) , the college-age daughter of Steffi (Goldie Hawn) by a previous marriage to Joe (Woody Allen). DJ starts by explaining that her blended family lives in a big apartment on Park Avenue and are all liberal Democrats, except for one brother. We soon hear DJs stepfather Bob (Alan Alda) in a heated argument about politics with his conservative son. Bob wonders out loud how a son of his could possibly hold such views and muses, "Unless some large Republican pea pod from the basement has taken over your body." Bob is so upset with his sons political beliefs that he momentarily considers disinheriting him, shouting to his wife Steffi, "Bring down a copy of my will and an eraser!"
DJ goes on to explain that "If Dads a liberal Democrat, then youd have to say that Mom is the one thing more extreme. Shes a guilty liberal Democrat." And we soon see DJs mother Steffi in full-tilt socialite mode throwing a chic affair to help the New York Philharmonic. Providing the music for this little gathering is none other than Itzhak Perlman, who plays "Just You, Just Me" on his violin.
Its Hard to Decide How to Commit Suicide
DJs biological father Joe lives in Paris, but hes currently in New York on one of his frequent visits. Hes close friends with ex-wife Steffi and her current husband Bob. After confiding in them that his latest girlfriend has left him, Joe remarks, "Im gonna kill myself. I should go to Paris and jump off the Eiffel Tower. Ill be dead--you know, in fact, if I get the Concord, I could be dead three hours earlier."
Steffi rides her ex-husband about being too indecisive a man to be able to commit suicide, "You couldnt figure out whether you wanted to be a psychoanalyst or a writer." But Joe responds, "So I compromised. I became a writer and a patient."
A Diamond for Dessert
One of the many imaginative musical numbers occurs when Holden meets DJ at Harry Winstons jewelry store so she can help him pick out a surprise engagement ring for her sister Skylar. Before long, they and all the stores employees perform "My Baby Just Cares for Me" in a knock-out production number, and Holden buys a one-and-a-half carat diamond ring for $8,000.
Later, at a romantic dinner at Le Cirque, Holden puts the ring in the whipped cream atop a peach parfait, and Skylar wolfs it all down. Shes rushed to the hospital, where after looking at an X-ray showing the ring lodged inside Skylar, the doctor tells Holden he could have got the ring for him for only $6,000. Then the doctor starts singing "Makin Whoopee" and soon nurses and patients--some of whom are bandaged or in wheelchairs--join in the exuberant song-and-dance number.
A Valentine to Venice
DJ and her father Joe go on a vacation together to Venice, providing an excuse for some fabulous location shots. In a scene that stunned me--partly because Woody Allen seems so emotionally naked in it--Joe stands in a room in the Hotel Gritti, half-singing, half-speaking "Im Through with Love" in hushed, plaintive tones. Afterwards, Joe gives his daughter DJ a bit of fatherly advice on romance, "Its better to be the leaver than the leavee."
But soon Joe sees a gorgeous woman (Julia Roberts), and hes instantly smitten. Joe knows nothing about the woman, but as luck would have it, DJ knows a lot about her because DJ used to eavesdrop on the womans sessions with her shrink back in New York. DJ tells Joe that the woman, whose name is Von, is unhappily married and that shes an art historian whos come to Venice to see the Tintorettos. Based on what DJ has overheard during Vons therapy sessions, she gives her dad a quick primer on what Von finds irresistible in a man.
In spite of the fact that Joe looks like--well like Woody Allen, he sets out to sweep the beautiful Von off her feet. Joe goes to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, where there are dozens of paintings by Tintoretto, and not surprisingly runs into Von there. Joe tells her hes a writer, and she replies that shes seen one of his books at a 99-cent stall, but he brushes past this by claiming that was only a "get-acquainted" price.
Before long, Von and Joe are sitting on the steps of a palazzo at the edge of the Grand Canal, and Julia Roberts delivers a wistful rendition of the song "All My Life." DJs insider information on Vons innermost thoughts seems to be paying off for Joe. Hes transformed himself into her fantasy of the perfect man, and in spite of how implausible it seems, this is the world of movie make-believe, and its clear that Von is falling fast. Eventually, Von leaves her husband and goes to live with Joe in Paris.
at Steffis Birthday Party
One of Steffis pet projects is prison reform, and she visits a jail, where shes appalled at the conditions. Later, she addresses a group of policemen, telling them, "What we need are open prisons. Space. Space where the damaged human spirit can heal. I say give them an opportunity to participate in decorating their own cells with their own personal decorators."
Steffi has a birthday party in October, and she invites Charles Ferry (Tim Roth), a convict whose cause she has championed. Hes just out of prison, and his presence at the party leads to some hilarious moments, one of which is when he joins Skylar on the balcony. They talk, then kiss, and she gushes, "Ive never been kissed by a sociopath before." They kiss some more, and Roth sings "If I Had You." Its a scene both wildly romantic and utterly ridiculous, and I loved it!
Later, as a slapstick game of hockey is being played in the background, Skylar tells her mother and father shes not going to marry Holden because shes now in love with the ex-convict Ferry. Bob loses his cool and declares, "Thou shalt wed thy intended!" to which Steffi retorts, "Youre sounding tiresomely Biblical." "What is this?" grumbles Bob, "Noel Coward with hockey?"
A Danse Macabre
When DJs Grandpa dies in his sleep at age 88, everyone goes to his funeral at Campbells Funeral Chapel, and this provides the setting for another boffo musical number. In a touch of magic realism, Grandpas ghost rises from the coffin and starts singing and dancing to "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)." Soon other ghosts at the chapel join in, including a spectral figure formed from ashes accidentally spilled from an urn. Of course, the people at the funeral get swept along by the effervescence of the music as well.
A Valentine to Paris
As is their custom, Steffi and Bob and their whole family travel to Paris to spend the Christmas season at the Ritz. On Christmas Eve, Joe visits them at the hotel, where he reveals that Von has left him because her dream of finding the perfect man no longer tortures her. After having been with him, she feels that she has fulfilled her romantic fantasy and wants to return to her old life with her husband.
Steffi tries to console Joe by asking him to a party that evening, but Joe is feeling depressed and declines, telling her, "Instead I have plans to go to Napoleons Tomb. Im gonna lie down next to him." But eventually he changes his mind, and they go to the party, where everyone is dressed like Groucho Marx. Steffi and Joe talk, quoting old Groucho lines, and they leave the party for a while and walk to the Seine. There Goldie Hawn reprises "Im Through with Love" in a wonderful, tenderly lyrical scene. After Steffi and Joe dance, they sit near the rivers edge and discuss how they value the friendship theyve been able to maintain over the years, even if their marriage didnt work out.
Steffi and Joe return to the party, where DJ announces shes met a terrific guy, who turns out to be dressed like Harpo. While entertaining the possibility that the wild, wacky lives of the members of her family might make a good movie, DJ is forced to conclude, "Better make it a musical or no one will believe it."
Lots of Laughs and Some Memorable Tunes
Although the Everyone Says I Love You DVD is pretty lackluster in the special features department, it was a treat to see this film again. In fact, I have to admit to watching it more than once. Although its cinematic enough to make seeing it on the big screen ideal, viewing it at home is the next best thing. I was able to backtrack to some of the great lines that whirred by too fast in the theater because I was laughing so hard. In addition, I had sweet music drifting through my mind and wrapping its way around my heart for days after returning Everyone Says I Love You to the video store.