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EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Drew Barrymore, Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth
Director:  Woody Allen
Audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  None
Length:  101 Minutes
Release Date:  August 17, 1999

Film ****

This may be one of Woody Allen’s most unusual films…and not just because it’s a musical.  It’s different because instead of the comic angst and cynicism that so frequently powers his movies is completely gone here.  Instead, he has created a movie that is truly upbeat, effervescent, and utterly disarming with its unabashed charm.  It wins you over from the opening frames, and keeps hold of you throughout.

Allen clearly remembers the golden age of musicals, and manages to pay honorable tribute to them with a cast of talented actors who can’t really sing or dance that well…but seem to burst into song at just the right moments in their lives to express happiness, sorrow…whatever emotion is overcoming them.  That used to be the way of the musical, where the songs seemed to flow naturally out of a given situation.  We tend to forget that in the era of the bombastic Andrew Lloyd Webber production where the songs are the whole point, and not the characters or story.  Of course, I’d bet if you listened to these songs without the benefit of the movie to go with, you’d think you were listening to one of those hysterical Rhino records compilations that featured Joe Pesci singing “Got to Get You Into My Life”.

The film uses old standards from the 30’s and 40’s for its song list, and they all work together to create a charming and sweetly comical mood.  Take the rendition of “Making Whoopee” performed in a hospital, or the ghosts that literally rise up out of their caskets to sing “Enjoy Yourself”.  There is also a couple of amusing numbers involving a troupe of singers dressed like Groucho Marx and singing in French, and one that takes place in a jewelry store.  The latter features a delightful moment as Edward Norton tries clumsily to mount a table to do a little dance routine.  Fred Astaire he ain’t, but that’s okay, because neither am I.

One of the aspects of the film I liked the best was the use of locales.  In addition to the traditional Woody Allen streets of New York setting, he also takes the audience on wonderful trips to Paris and Venice, and both are gloriously photographed.  In this film, he clearly wants us to see all three cities as havens of love and romance, magical enough places where anything could happen.

But rest assured, there are a few decidedly Allen touches in the clever script, including his character’s contemplation of throwing himself off the Eiffel Tower (“If I take the Concorde, I could kill myself three hours earlier…”), or the son, played by Lukas Haas, who has suddenly become a staunch conservative, much to the dismay of his rich and guilty liberal parents.  He eventually comes out of it, though, and the reason for his behavior was...well, you’ll have to hear it for yourself.  And in one of many deliciously funny twists, the liberal mother succeeds in winning parole for a hardened criminal, touting the fact that he’s just the victim of a poor upbringing and a hard life.  Nice sentiment…until the guy begins to fall for her daughter.

Still, the point of the movie is a celebration of love, and we, as audience members have proven over the years that we can still be caught up in a good romantic film if it hits the right notes.  During one beautiful number filmed by a river in Paris at night, Woody shares a dance with Goldie Hawn that is so magical, she literally comes off her feet and floats through it.  The cynic in me be damned, I felt myself right there with her as I watched it.

Video ***1/2

Okay, I admit, I think I’m going to be spoiled from now on after seeing Shakespeare in Love until Disney decides to make anamorphic transfers the norm.  This is a nearly flawless transfer…the beautiful interior and exterior locations are well filmed, with good color, no bleeding, and no noticeable grain or compression.  Only occasionally did I notice a little softness to the images, but only rarely.  This is a commendable effort that could have been stellar with a 16x9 enhancement. 

Audio **

The soundtrack is in the original mono, but sounds fine, and gives the old fashioned songs a nice, authentic treatment.  Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, as are the sung lyrics.  No complaints, but nothing really to write home about, either.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Everyone Says I Love You is pure movie bliss.  It’s a charming, romantic film, made even more so by actors who aren’t really singers, but seem to find the songs welling from within at just the right moments.  This is easily of one Woody Allen’s finest achievements.