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Mighty Aphrodite back to product details

mighty mixed
12345678910
written by nathan May 5, 2003 - 4:33 PM PDT
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful
_Mighty Aphrodite_ struck me as interesting but disappointing. Interesting because something seems to have changed in Allen's repertoire at this point -- one might have thought "for the better." The work as a whole, however, doesn't manage to fulfill the promise of its more successful parts, and his subsequent output may confirm that direction.

There is a new realism apparent this comedy. For example, Miro Sorvino is one of the most forwardly buxom casting moves (of a sympathetic role) Allen has ever made. This new highlighting of things sensuous is reflected throughout the film.

Though his comedy's have often dealt with the idiosyncrasies of human sexuality, they have done so in a playful, neurotic, superficially flippant manner that belittles rather than confronts the anxieties many of us feel about bedroom gymnastics. Mighty Aphrodite is a partial break from that tradition. Sure, the wise-cracks are still there. But the humor has become tinged with an acknowledgment of reality. Dramatic (in addition to comedic) twists hinge on condoms, AIDS, and "weird sex" (now treated as not always as just a punchline).

The film presents other welcome shifts from traditional Allen fare. For example, the "first date" between Allen's boxer friend and Sorvino's character is perhaps the most realistic depiction of an awkward getting-to-know-you situation that Allen's oeuvre offers. It's hokey, but largely in the way that such situations actually are hokey. The scene is almost embarrassing to watch because it is played with such earnestness -- an uncommon occurrence in a Woody Allen comedy.

Overall, however, the notable elements in Mighty Aphrodite can't salvage what is, at heart, a faulty composition. Probably the most disappointing part of Mighty Aphrodite is the tidy ending. Allen ties each story line into a package with a cute red ribbon and sends the viewer on her way. This is probably the most nauseating cop-out in his work since the ending of the otherwise inspired Hannah and Her Sisters (one of my favorite Woody Allen films). He would later say that the Hannah ending was a mistake. Apparently he didn't learn the lesson.

Aficionados will enjoy this film like they do most of his films. Those expecting a traditional work from this prodigious craftsman will not be disappointed. But following in the wake of the well-constructed Bullets Over Broadway, this next effort -- while enjoyable -- is haphazardly constructed and unlikely to become a favorite with general audiences or with longtime fans.

Much has been made of Woody Allen depicting himself as the doting father of an adopted child in Mighty Aphrodite in light of the legal and public relations battles between he and Mia Farrow a couple of years ago. Suffice to say, this is such a minor plot device that it warrants little comment.

Similarly, the non-affair Allen's character in Husbands and Wives has with the college co-ed was exploited by the press as a reflection of Allen's "improprieties" at the time. There was so little similarity between the two situations, one wonders whether the people drawing the comparisons understood -- or even saw -- the film.

But many critics notoriously attribute more reflection of the real world to Allen's work than is readily present. Witness the widespread contention that Crimes and Misdemeanors depicted the amoral character of the 1980s. The film primarily focused on a larger, question, answered with a negative: Is there a moral order to the cosmos for those who cannot commit a leap-of-faith and believe in one?

An analogous misconception appears to have brewed around this film. Simply put, Mighty Aphrodite spends little time exploring Allen's feelings towards adoption. The film concentrates on adult affairs of the heart and speaks (implicitly) of adoption and fatherhood (mostly) through omission.

12345678910

(Average 6.78)
116 Votes
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