Monday, March 26, 2012

"He made juice for the mob?!"

BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is one of Woody Allen's best films. It represents a culmination of his entire career up until that point, a sort of pastiche of every avenue he took as an artist. It's arty-looking, broadly comedic yet sweet and romantic, and it lovingly pays tribute to comedians and show business. Right there, it captures the entire arc of his career from stand-up comedian to broad comedy filmmaker to Oscar winner and arthouse lover. If you are a fan of anything Woody Allen then you're likely to love it as it combines so many of his best elements as a artist. If you don't like his work, then this probably won't change your mind.

Personally, I think the two major things that make DANNY ROSE so great as a film period (not just as a Woody Allen film) are: 1). It's hilarity and 2). It's romanticism and bittersweetness about the underdogs of show business.

DANNY ROSE is hysterical. The film feels like a classic comedy to me in a lot of ways (not just because it's black-and-white), which helps make it so funny. Most of the plot contrivances are used merely to set up hilarious gags and wisecracks ("What is this, a Turkish whorehouse? I live here!"). I think all the jokes and gags land really well, and all of that credit goes to Woody Allen's talent as a comedian. His timing and delivery are impeccable. Watching more Bob Hope movies, you can really see how much of an influence he had on Woody. DANNY ROSE is a comedy in the tradition of the Bob Hope movies from the 40s, and for that I appreciate it now more than I ever did.

But unlike a Bob Hope movie and more like a Charlie Chaplin movie, DANNY ROSE also has a genuine endearing fondness for those who are perennially two-bit, down-on-their-luck, or just plain counted-out. The film is like a very funny love letter to all the pariahs of show business. I love that final thanksgiving gathering of all Danny Rose's losers. He's the champion and savior among them. When Tina comes to his door (perhaps rejected herself), his pride wants to send her away, but his compassion for her and all things unwanted wins out in the end and he can't let her go. It's a lovely final image.

Though DANNY ROSE deals with the sadness of abandonment and the failure of not "making it", it's also a work that redefines what it means to "make it." There's a special place saved in Woody Allen's heart for those who will never "make it" in showbiz and it's in the warm recollections of old-timey comedians shooting the shit around a deli. The film's final evocation is that to be a local legend and remembered fondly among your peers in the business is to have really "made it." Having your own sandwich in a deli named after you ain't half bad neither.

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