[Screen It]


(1998) (Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Heavy Minor Moderate None None
Mild None None None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Extreme Mild Minor Mild Mild

Comedy: A neurotic celebrity reporter and his equally despondent ex-wife try to find happiness and acceptance through their friendships and relationships with others.
Lee Simon (KENNETH BRANAGH) is a successful celebrity journalist who aspires to be a novelist or screenwriter. While neither successful at that career nor with his brief flings with many beautiful and exotic women, such as actress Nicole Oliver (MELANIE GRIFFITH), a supermodel (CHARLIZE THERON), and Bonnie (FAMKE JANSSEN), a publisher, Lee isn't happy with his life. Even so, he insecurely continues trying to get anyone to read his material, including a hot- headed young actor, Brandon Darrow (LEONARDO DiCAPRIO).

Meanwhile, Lee's ex-wife, Robin (JUDY DAVIS), a school teacher, wallows in self-pity after not being able to "find herself" after their divorce. Eventually talked into seeing a plastic surgeon (MICHAEL LERNER) by her friend, Robin backs out at the last moment, but then just happens to meet Tony Gardella (JOE MANTEGNA), a TV producer doing a story in the doctor's office. The two immediately hit it off and become a couple.

As Lee and Robin's paths occasionally overlap, the two try to make sense of their lives. While Robin hopes to get sex tips from an upper class hooker (BEBE NEUWIRTH) to please Tony, Lee continues on his course of romantic self-destruction as he enters into a relationship with a young actress/waitress, Nola (WINONA RYDER), whom he's had his eye on for a while, that he's seemingly destined to ruin.

Although most Woody Allen films don't draw in the kids, the presence of many young stars, including Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron, Famke Janssen, and that guy from "Titanic" (Leo, what's his name) may cause many to want to see it.
For language, sex and some drug use.
  • KENNETH BRANAGH plays an insecure journalist (essentially playing the stereotypical Woody Allen character role) who beds many women, but can't stick with them due to his ever roving eye.
  • JUDY DAVIS plays his ex-wife who finally gains confidence in herself after meeting what appears to be the perfect man.
  • JOE MANTEGNA plays that man, a TV talk show producer, who accepts Robin for who she is.
  • LEONARDO DiCAPRIO plays a hotheaded young actor with a penchant for trashing hotel rooms, doing drugs, cussing a lot, and offering others to join him and his girlfriend for group sex.
  • WINONA RYDER plays a pretty waitress who falls for Lee (and smokes some).


    OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
    Although there's still a month's worth of eligible films and such an award obviously doesn't really exist, if it did, these are the words you'd be hearing next spring: "And the Rich Little Oscar for Best Impersonation of Another Actor goes to Kenneth Branagh for "Celebrity."

    Yes, the actor best known for his work playing Shakespearean roles is now playing Woody Allen. While this film isn't an autobiography or even a spoof of the well-known actor, writer and director of films such as "Annie Hall" and "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Celebrity" is written and directed by Allen and features Branagh playing what's become the all too familiar, stereotypical Allen character.

    All of which means we're "treated" to a stammering, insecure, and womanizing writer who manages to have hordes of beautiful women fall for him before he sabotages their relationships. That, a female counterpart (played by Judy Davis) similarly afflicted with Allen-like neuroses, and the overall retreading of familiar Allen material from his previous films prevents this one from ever reaching the same plateau of insightfulness or comic hilarity often found in his older works.

    That's not to say that it doesn't have its moments of funny material -- it does -- but that it feels like the same old Allen schtick only with someone else playing Allen. Minus the glasses, the receding and thinning hairline and the general nerdy aura, Branagh may better fit the "sexy" label that women (or reporters) placed on Allen in his heyday of the '70s and '80s, but his mimicry of him only serves to severely distract the audience from the story.

    Nonetheless, Branagh's impersonation is uncanny. Seemingly putting as much effort into playing Allen as he did Hamlet, the thespian has perfectly captured every bumbling nuance and neurotic tick and stammer. While the roles Allen plays in his own films are essentially the same character but in different circumstances, it's not entirely clear why he and Branagh chose to play the central character this way.

    Although Allen's presence in front of the camera is nearly the kiss of death nowadays, and he's getting too old to realistically play the part anymore, having Branagh imitate him (instead of playing a new neurotic character) does nothing but constantly remind you of Allen.

    The other looming problem is that we've seen this sort of story so many times before that it offers few surprises and suffers from too much familiarity and repetitiveness. We know that Allen, excuse me, Branagh, will lure in the attractive women but manage to ruin their relationships, and along the way he (and we) will meet a variety of characters personified by a bevy of established and rising stars as the story rambles its way from start to finish.

    To its credit, the film does speed along from one bit to the next, and some of the supporting roles/characters are well done, if not necessarily agreeable. Of course the post "Titanic" presence of Leonardo DiCaprio will draw the most attention, and he does a decent job playing the unlikeable and highly volatile actor living in the fast lane.

    Shot before "Titanic," the role is obviously a spoof of such actors, and with DiCaprio's sudden shot into stardom, the film couldn't have benefitted more from its "lucky" and timely casting. The young star's brief presence midway through the film clearly revs up the production, but once the story's done with his character, we're off to pursue and momentarily highlight the next celebrity.

    As in his other films, Allen has a knack for recruiting numerous stars to play his supporting characters and this movie is no exception. Most of the performances are quite good, including the likes of Joe Mantegna as Robin's all but too perfect boyfriend, Winona Ryder as the object of Lee's affection, Famke Janssen as Lee's soon to be dumped girlfriend, and Charlize Theron perfectly playing the bit of a partying supermodel.

    Shot in black and white for no apparent reason (other than to throw in a joke where Branagh's character quips about pretentious directors who shoot their films that way), the film's never boring to watch even when considering the retreading of material and themes from past Allen films.

    Whether you'll consider it funny depends on your tolerance for Branagh playing Woody Allen, Judy Davis ("Absolute Power") playing a female version of him, and bits of attempted humor, such as an oral sex lesson using fruit, that have already been done before.

    Even so, the picture has its share of funny moments and if you're a fan of Allen's films, you'll probably enjoy this release. If you're not, this one will probably grate on your nerves like the rest. Decent, but certainly not great, we give "Celebrity" a 5.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with nearly 50 "f" words and an assortment of others. Brief drug use occurs (snorting cocaine, smoking pot) courtesy of the character played by teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio and other drinking and smoking also occurs.

    A great deal of sexually related talk is heard, a scene shows a couple having sex in bed (with movement and sounds) while another couple in the same bed just talks), other implied activity occurs, we see some scantily clad women at a lingerie fashion show, and a hooker gives a woman a graphic lesson on oral sex techniques using a banana.

    Bad attitudes are present courtesy of the main character cheating on his wife and later girlfriends, and also from DiCaprio's character (playing a spoiled and volatile actor) trashing his hotel room and being abusive to his girlfriend. Many of the remaining categories, however, have little or no major objectionable content, but as always, you should more closely examine what's been listed should you be concerned about the film's appropriateness for you or someone else in your home.

  • People have drinks at a bar, including the supermodel who has a martini.
  • People have drinks at a nightclub.
  • Robin, Tony and others have drinks.
  • People have drinks at a class reunion.
  • Bonnie, Lee and others have drinks at some literary reception.
  • People have drinks at another party.
  • People drink in Brandon's limo, including the actor who then also drinks at a boxing match.
  • Brandon snorts some cocaine and smokes a joint (and some other women also smoke pot).
  • People have drinks at a book reception.
  • People have drinks at a wedding.
  • A man hawking Jesus statues has one where "blood" runs from the palms when a button is pushed.
  • Lee has both for always cheating on his latest girlfriend/wife with other women.
  • Some may not like a woman stating that she's had two abortions.
  • Some viewers may not like a scene depicting a man hawking Jesus statues, including one whose palms "bleed" at the push of a button. Likewise, some may not like the film's brief use of Klansmen and skinheads for humor.
  • Nicole has oral sex with Lee (despite being married).
  • Brandon trashes his hotel room and abuses his girlfriend.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said toward a woman), "Screwed up," "Shut the hell up," "Ball breaker," "Schmuck" and "Horse's ass."
  • Some kids may want to imitate the popular Leonardo DiCaprio and his character's behavior (trashing a hotel room, roughing up a woman, cussing, doing drugs, etc...).
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 47 "f" words (2 used with "mother," 1 used sexually), 8 "s" words, 2 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 6 asses (3 used with "hole"), 2 craps, 2 hells, 2 S.O.B.'s, and 11 uses of "Oh my God," 4 of "Oh God," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Jesus," "Christ," "For Christ's sakes," "My God" and "God" as exclamations.
  • Back in her childhood home with Lee, Nicole tells him that she used to lie naked in bed and watch her body develop and comments that her brothers used to rub their bodies against her (at other times). After Lee comes on to her, she tells him that "I could never have intercourse with anyone but Phil (her husband)," but then adds, "What I do from the neck up is a different story." We then see her working on his pants while kneeling before him (implying unseen oral sex).
  • A lingerie fashion show features models wearing such garments that show cleavage along with most of some of their bare butts.
  • An artist briefly talks about an eight-story penis sculpture.
  • A woman tells a supermodel that she uses her videotape. The husband then chimes in "So do I," to which the wife adds, "I exercise to it" (implying that he uses it for different reasons).
  • After a supermodel tells Lee, "Every part of my body gives me sexual pleasure," he caresses her arm and she begins to react that way (heavy, pleasured breathing).
  • A supermodel straddles an athlete's crotch on the dance floor and does some "dirty dancing."
  • At a plastic surgeon's office, we briefly hear a worker telling a man, "I'm sorry, the doctor doesn't do penis enlargements." The man then says, "I'm just talking about three inches."
  • At his school reunion, Lee sees several women and comments on having felt one of their breasts and also wanting (in the past) to have sex with another. He then talks about never knowing what it would be like "to make love to a sleazy blond".
  • After having had sex (not seen), Bonnie asks Lee, "Where were you when we were making love?"
  • We briefly see a woman and man in a hot tub who are obviously nude, but we don't see anything.
  • Brandon wants Lee to join him in bed for a sexual foursome (two women, two men). Lee is hesitant (commenting on not liking other male genitalia), but we then see them and two women in bed. While Lee just talks to the woman with him, we see Brandon rigorously having sex with a woman under the sheets with lots of movement and sounds.
  • Robin visits a high class hooker she met on a talk show. She's seeking sexual advice from the hooker so that she can please Tony. She comments on him being very sexually active and that they have a good sex life. The hooker then asks where they should start (the advice) and Robin says, "Oral sex." The hooker asks Robin if she enjoys it and she says that she doesn't mind it. The hooker then gives Robin a banana and says, "Show me how you do it. Give me your best blow job....go ahead, down the hatch." Robin then puts the banana in her mouth and shows how she does it (and the hooker reacts to Robin's use of her teeth). The hooker then peels a banana and gives her graphic, "professional" demonstration that ends when she chokes on the banana.
  • We briefly see a scene from a play's rehearsal where Nola kisses another woman who's in a bra.
  • A few characters, such as Nicole, Nola, the supermodel, a hooker, and others smoke once or a few times, while background characters also smoke.
  • We see a brief flashback scene where Lee tells Robin that he wants a divorce.
  • Relationships and infidelity.
  • Whether the film's statement that you can judge a society by whom it decides to celebrate (idolize) is accurate or not.
  • Since he's so popular, the character played by Leonard DiCaprio and his behavior (cussing, drug use, group sex, hotel room trashing, etc...).
  • Lee accidentally crashes his car through a business' storefront window.
  • Brandon trashes his hotel room while being somewhat rough to his girlfriend.

  • Reviewed November 13, 1998 / Posted on November 20, 1998

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