Without even going into the movie I already have to give Woody Allen some credit. I spent the last few reviews criticizing him for being lazy and coasting by with his comedies. I prefer Allen when he is going out on a limb and at the very least you can say that by making a musical comedy. ESILY doesn’t so much have a central plot so much as several sub plots. It is mainly about the people in this large upper class New York family finding love.
Musicals are a hard thing to do even with the best of directors. Scorsese tried with mixed results with New York New York. It’s not so much to do with skill (although that helps) but a certain mentality/talent. Woody Allen is one of the best directors ever, and while I think he does an admirable job, there are some problems with this musical.
One thing that isn’t a major problem but more of a nagging thing is the music selection. The songs are all Cole Porter type numbers from the 30’s. Allen has a love of that music and musicals from that time. The nagging part comes in where this movie is set in the 1990’s. Something tells me he might have set it in the 30’s if he had the budget like in Shadows and Fog but since he doesn’t he just set it in the now. It might even help if there was something to tie it to the story like if the family were big fans of old musicals and their imaginations constructed these numbers for them. There isn’t though and there is a slight disconnect when you hear these people sing numbers from your grandfather’s time.
There is a scene in the movie where a couple (played by Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton) are in the hospital cause Barrymore’s character swallowed a wedding ring. They then launch into a big production of Makin Whoopie. This song has absolutely nothing to do with anything and has no reason to be in the movie. I give that example to show my second issue. The typical rule with musicals are that the songs should advance the plot or characters in some way. And there are times when the movie does that, however there are other times when it seems like Allen puts a random song in because five minutes have passed and we need a song in there.
I think Allen also made a decision based on the budget by having the actors sing their own songs. Now I’m not criticizing that. For one it plays into the comic theme of a musical for an ordinary family. The songs also help in that they are all low key and don’t stress these non-trained actors too much. Even Allen can get by with Ooooh-ing through a ballad with no trouble. The surprisingly best singer was actually Edward Norton, who was actually told not to sing as well as he did.
The musical numbers did grow on me during the course of the film and I found it to be sweet but here comes the “but”. But I wish Allen engaged in a bit more spectacle. There is a scene that is actually so great that it made me resent some of the inaction in the rest of the movie. Probably the most memorable number is when Joe (Allen) and Steffi (Goldie Hawn) are walking along a river in Paris reminiscing over old times. The two then have a musical number with a waltz beside the river. Allen is dancing with Hawn and he is able to pick her up and throw her through the air with some wire work. It is a really magical and sweet scene as you see them having this beautiful dance through the air. It seems like the inspiration and the reason why Allen wanted to make this movie. After that I was a little resentful that Allen didn’t use the same imagination when it came to all the other numbers. Occasionally there is a dance number with a production but the majority of the numbers are cast members sitting around or standing still while softly singing. Musicals are about the spectacle. They are escapism and either you wow them with great singing or you give them a spectacle of great artistry or dancing. Yes these are ordinary people with ordinary voices but who says they can’t be imaginative and engage in elegant dream like fantasies.
I have talked about the music a lot but that is because that is the thing to notice about this movie. The plot and the situations are all light and inoffensive. The situations don’t even rise to Three’s Company level of raunchiness because again, this movie is modeled after old musicals Allen loved. This is the cinematic equivalent of whipped cream. It is sweet but has absolutely no density. Really that’s the whole movie.
I liked Everyone Says I Love You. I was always interested by what was going on and it never drags. The music and the earnestness behind it all won me over and in the end I found it sweet. The music portion is flawed and I wish Allen showed imagination all the way through like he did with the Paris waltz scene. And the movie never rises to the great homage Woody Allen probably wanted it to be. But this was a pleasant movie and a nice change of pace for Allen to spark some creativity.