Miramax Films | Release Date: November 20, 1998
5.7
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Mixed or average reviews based on 23 Ratings
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4
J-ShapAug 27, 2011
While the depictions of celebrities are pretty spot on, this film is meandering and largely devoid of laughs or enough bite to truly have the impact of the film it emulates (La Dolce Vita). Celebrity is like listening to an old man ramble for hours.
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5
SpangleAug 10, 2017
Propelled forward by a neurotic energy that has come to define Woody Allen films over the years, Celebrity fits squarely into the definition of "lesser Allen". It is watchable, but it is one of those films that fills you with no guilt whenPropelled forward by a neurotic energy that has come to define Woody Allen films over the years, Celebrity fits squarely into the definition of "lesser Allen". It is watchable, but it is one of those films that fills you with no guilt when you fall asleep on the couch. As somebody who has a propensity for closing my eyes for two seconds only to wake up 20 minutes later, Celebrity was simultaneously a guilt-free nap at times and a film that is oddly thought-provoking. Just as smart as Allen's other films, Celebrity is just not funny enough and is far too disjointed to actually work as a complete package, but there is enough half-baked Allen nonsense to satisfy my craving for his neurotic and off-beat style of filmmaking. With an ensemble cast of characters in a story focused on a divorcing couple, Allen's Celebrity is not the comedy-drama about celebrity status that I had expected, but is nonetheless an interesting minor work.

The divorcing couple, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) and Robin Simon (Judy Davis), seem to be headed opposite directions. A travel writer who has an interview scheduled with a major actress, Lee is on his way up. Feeling unsatisfied with having not sewn his wild oats in life, Lee is feeling the itch to divorce Robin, so that is exactly what he does. Robin, meanwhile, is blindsided by this turn of events, having believed everything to be just fine in their marriage. However, in portraying this relationship and how it turns out, Allen's neurosis and own personal anxiety seems to seep through every frame. A writer/novelist, Lee is a man who has it all at first, receiving blowjobs from hot actress Nicole Oliver (Melanie Griffith), dating hot editor Bonnie (Famke Janssen), flirting with hot young actress Nola (Winona Ryder), and going on dates/dancing with a hot supermodel (Charlize Theron). He is even convinced to write his novel and gets some connections to hot young actor Brandon Darrow (Leonardo DiCaprio) to get his screenplay in his hands. Meanwhile, Robin is in a rehab facility run by the Catholic Church and being convinced to get plastic surgery by her best friend. In other words, the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum at first.

However, as always, Allen is neurotic and anxious. In his films, his characters constantly wait for the other shoe to drop. Mirroring his own anxiety about his own life after his own philandering ways, Lee's life begins to fall apart and Robin's takes off with a new marriage and new job leading her to happiness she has never previously experienced. Yet, both are still nagged by neurosis. Both acting as Woody Allen surrogates, Branagh's Lee constantly flails through life with the nervous energy that Allen characters had become known for. With awful timing - going over script notes with Brandon as Brandon has sex with a girl - and a frantic way of talking, Lee is a man who always sounds startled and shocked that words are escaping his mouth. Robin is very similar and quite frantic, excitable, and on-edge. When things go well for her, she looks around wondering why and when it will all go back to normal. As surrogates for Allen himself, both deliver strong performances, while also embodying a constant theme in this film: the constant feeling of dread in the pits of these characters' stomachs. When will their laugh crumble next? Can we ever truly be comfortable and satisfied or must we sit around waiting for it get worse again?

Of course, it is this exact wondering that ruins their life. Had he stayed with his wife, Lee would have been far happier. He would be in a stable marriage with Robin, still in his good job, and content with working on his novel and screenplay without feeling the crushing blow of rejection again. For Robin, she is lucky enough to learn this secret from a psychic who urges her to marry Tony (Joe Mantegna), who makes her happy. With her anxiety making her wonder why something so good is happening to her, she keeps looking for ways that it is going poorly, which will only turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy by the end. Once she stops looking for something wrong and just accepts everything that is good while ignoring the bad, she becomes far more satisfied with her life and her happiness increases infinitely.

With regard to its title, the film does offer some interesting insights on celebrity and "fame", but on a very personal level. Citing Andy Warhol's belief that everybody has 15 minutes of fame, the characters laugh it off, but it does seem to be the case in the film. For both Lee and Robin, they have moments at the peak of their happiness only for it to rapidly crumble all around them without a warning. It creeps up on them out of nowhere, destroys their happiness, and leads to them crashing out of the spotlight. The characters around them in the film - namely those connected with show business - similarly do anything they can to stay in the spotlight and worry about public appearances to an absurd degree.
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