Woody Allen, one of my absolute favorite film directors, goes against the grain of his normal outings with a very creative cinematic device which involves making a bright, happy musical that takes the course of a normal film starring actors who've never sung before singing with their normal voices in musical numbers with no truly professional dancers. With this vastly fun element of the movie, Allen shows us life if any old person broke out into song. And that is what makes it an even more pleasant and encouraging escape that many other normal musicals.
One has never before looked at a cast the same way. I wonder what reviews were like. I can say that Alan Alda, who's always fun, has one of the very best voices in the film and even plays the piano. The same goes for Goldie Hawn, who apparently was scared to death of singing in the film. She's also still extremely hot. Julia Roberts plays a very very serious role and never sings, but it was definitely interesting to observe what she and Woody are like on screen together. He carries the scenes, and she loyally follows. Natascha Lyonne is the definite highlight of the cast, playing a hyperconfident girl in that midpoint between girl and woman whose flights of fancy make her extremely fickle with men. Edward Norton, one of the best contemporary actors we have, is actually not at his best in this film. It feels like he just doesn't know how to get comfortable in his role. His voice is OK. Billy Crudup, in a small role, is actually quite unexpectedly funny in a little number in a cab with a Middle Eastern driver. Tim Roth, an unexpected addition to the bit players like Crudup, has a great non- singing role that recalls the genre he's been working in for most of his career.
Where a lot of musicals repel most people because of their agonizingly featherweight stories, this one does what a great musical is supposed to do, which is lift your spirits and make you feel the very deepest potential of life's beauty that can possibly be pulled out of it, and because of Allen's unorthodox method, it nails it. It's one of my favorite musicals, of which there are few. It's a very interesting ensemble epic that involves all different strands pertaining to the love life and newfound wisdom of each member of a wealthy and happy family.
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