Saturday, August 03, 2013
Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen, Mighty Aphrodite is the story about a man who wants to know who is the real mother of his adopted son as he learns that she’s a prostitute where he decides to give her a better life. Inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the film explores a man’s desire to improve a young woman’s life as it is told by a Greek chorus. Also starring Helena Bohnam Carter, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Peter Weller, and F. Murray Abraham. Mighty Aphrodite is a charming yet exhilarating film from Woody Allen.
The film revolves around a sports writer who is amazed by his adopted son’s intelligence as he wants to know who is his real mother. Upon learning that she’s a prostitute, he decides to help giving her a better life in the hopes that his adopted son would be proud of her if ever meets her. It’s a film where a man is eager to help this ditzy but kind-hearted prostitute/porn actress get the chance for a better life. Even as he’s dealing with a marriage that is losing its passion as his wife is being drawn to an art dealer. All of it is told by a Greek chorus who pops into the story every once in a while to help this man do something or to warn him of the consequence he might bring.
Woody Allen’s script is filled with some humor and drama as it is largely driven by its protagonist Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) as he was someone who was hesitant about having a child until Max (Jimmy McQuaid) comes into his world as he enjoys fatherhood. With his marriage to Amanda (Helena Bohnam Carter) kind of losing its luster, Lenny goes on the journey to find out who is Max’s mother as it is revealed in the form of this prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Linda is a very interesting character as she is someone who isn’t very bright as she comes from a very dysfunctional family but has aspirations to go to Broadway but still does trick and a porn gig every once in a while. It prompts Lenny to do something to help this young woman to have a good life where he would try to set her up with a boxer named Kevin (Michael Rapaport) where Lenny’s own life would have some revelations of its own.
Allen’s direction is quite straightforward though there’s elements of styles in some of the long shots he creates as well as the scenes of the Greek chorus as it’s shot in Sicily. The Greek chorus scenes are filled with some dance numbers choreographed by Graciela Daniele as it’s often lively but also help to tell the story. Even as the Greek chorus leader (F. Murray Abraham) would pop in the story to give Lenny some advice. It adds the sense of a man wanting to do something for this young woman who seems to go nowhere while not telling her that he’s the adopted father of her son. Though it’s a film that doesn’t play with traditional structure in order to play with the idea of reality and fiction. It does manage to find a balance in the story that it wants to tell as the overall result is a very fascinating yet heartfelt film from Woody Allen.
Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key yet colorful look of some of the film‘s interiors to the more straightforward exterior scenes in the film. Editor Susan E. Morse does nice work with the editing from the transitions to go from the main story to the Greek chorus to a few montages to play up Linda‘s evolution. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Susan Bode and art director Tom Warren, does amazing work with the set pieces from Linda‘s apartment to the place where the Greek chorus tell their story.
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does brilliant work with the costumes from the clothes that Linda wears to the robes the Greek chorus wears. Sound editor Robert Hein does terrific work with the sound to create an atmosphere in the locations as well as the scenes involving the Greek chorus. The film’s soundtrack consists of traditional Greek music mixed in with jazz and classical music to play up some of its humor and drama.
The casting by Juliet Taylor is fantastic for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Paul Giamatti as an adoption agent, Tony Sirico as a boxing trainer, Jimmy McQuaid as Lenny and Amanda’s adopted son Max, and Claire Bloom as Amanda’s mother. F. Murray Abraham is excellent as the Greek chorus leader while Olympia Dukakis, Jack Warden, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, Danielle Ferland, and David Odgen Stiers make wonderful appearances as famous Greek gods commenting on the story or revealing some news that would impact the story. Peter Weller is terrific as an art dealer who tries to woo Amanda while Michael Rapaport is superb as a boxer who is set up to meet Linda.
Mira Sorvino is brilliant as Linda Ash as this very ditzy but well-meaning young woman who is very uncertain about her life until she meets Lenny where she becomes a proper lady as it’s really a majestic breakthrough for Sorvino. Helena Bohnam Carter is amazing as Amanda as a woman dealing with the changes in her marriage to Lenny while being wooed by this art dealer as she’s unsure if she’s in love with Lenny or the art dealer. Woody Allen is great as Lenny Weinrib as a man whose concern for his son’s future has him going into a journey where Allen brings a sense of wit and warmth to his role as it’s one of his finest performances.
Mighty Aphrodite is a remarkable film from Woody Allen that features a radiant Mira Sorvino in her breakthrough performance as well as an incredible cast that includes Helena Bohnam Carter, Michael Rapaport, and F. Murray Abraham. The film is a nice mix of humor and drama where it has a bit of non-conventional storytelling but also a sweetness that is endearing to watch. In the end, Mighty Aphrodite is a fabulous film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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