Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: October 27th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Woody Allen Actors: Woody Allen, Helena Bonham Carter, Mira Sorvino, Peter Weller, F. Murray Abraham, Olympia Dukakis, David Ogden Stiers, Paul Giamatti, Michael Rapaport, Jack Warden

 


 

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portswriter Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) wants a child, but his wife Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) doesn’t have time for a pregnancy. She prefers the ease of adoption, especially since she has a friend who can stay on the lookout for unwanted newborns. But Lenny puts his foot down, insisting that they have a serious discussion about children before hastening into getting someone else’s baby. As is customary in Woody Allen films, the very next scene shows the humorous contrast of Lenny and Amanda cuddling their newly acquired toddler.

Time flies, and little Max begins to grow up. The family moves, but Amanda continues to remain overly busy with her art gallery work and Lenny’s jealousy issues grow more needling, which leads to marital discourse. Their son turns out to be very intelligent, causing Lenny to obsess over who Max’s real parents might be.

After attributing the boy’s genes and traits primarily to the biological mother, he begins a difficult search for hopeful actress/aspiring Broadway singer/adult film star/prostitute Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino), who continually changes her name – starting with Leslie Wright, then Leslie St. James, followed by Judy Cum, and finally to Ash. She’s sweet and simple, with an incredibly high-pitched, whiny voice (something in between a Muppet and Lina Lamont from “Singin’ in the Rain”), and she isn’t afraid to discuss her history of crazy relationships, serial rapist relatives, and pornographic-moviemaking experiences. As the two learn more about each other, and Lenny helps Linda break away from her pimp to find a decent boyfriend, she reveals her regret for abandoning her child and her longing to begin life anew.

For narration, Allen uses a Greek chorus: a group of robed, masked speakers that chant their lines with heavy sarcasm and decidedly un-classic verbiage. Occasionally, the characters from the story interact with the chorus, which resides amongst the sunny wreckage of the Teatro Greco in Sicily. They step in to help transition scenes, give fortune-cookie advice, and provide comic relief, all in addition to the already hilariously candid dialogue from the clearly gifted actors. In one particularly creative moment, the chorus suddenly appears in the background at a park to sing the audience into a love montage. Their presence is certainly unique (or strange for modern audiences unprepared for the intrusion) and it works perfectly with the context of the story, even when many of their comments don’t generate hearty laughs.

The music is light and chirpy and the mood is pleasant and funny. Allen pens his signature type of wry script and plays his standard character – a fast-talking, bitingly sarcastic, nervously mumbling chatterbox. He’s a man uncertain about nearly every decision he makes, timidly flailing his arms about and constantly fearful of his full Achilles’ heel body. Sorvino is equally ambivalent, but presents such a memorable, vivacious character, it’s no wonder she won the 1996 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and gained positive critical recognition despite the film’s limited theatrical run. It’s rare to see a film so wholeheartedly casual, silly, effervescent, and yet genuinely touching.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10