Pretty vintage Woody Allen material apart from two particular elements. The first is that it’s the only film I remember seeing from him as a director with a big action scene (as he and Mia Farrow flee across a factory floor with a mafia goon shooting at them).
The second is that while the central story has a kind of slapstick tone, the framing device of a bunch of New York lounge comics sitting around in a famous Big Apple diner swapping stories about the titular character’s crazy exploits is much more straight laced. That means as well as being sort of redundant to begin with, it’s tonally at odds with the rest of the movie.
A bit of knowledge about the movie’s production solves the mystery of why it’s there, however – all the guys sitting around the table are real life comics who made their name in New York clubs in their heyday, evidently a bit of a vanity play by Allen.
The Danny Rose (Allen) they’re talking about is a good hearted, small time but big dreaming Broadway talent agent. Among his weirdo acts is a former lounge singer, Lou (Nick Apollo Forte), whose career is rising again thanks to a change in entertainment trends.
When Danny books Lou at a show with TV superstar Milton Berle in attendance, they both know it could lead to much bigger and better things. But Lou insists that his mistress, the brassy Tina (Farrow) is his good luck charm and dispatches Danny to make sure she attends.
But Tina’s very sore at Lou, calling to scream abuse at him on the phone and wanting none of it. Charged with making sure she attends the taping by hook or by crook, Danny pursues her into the affluent suburbs and a party at an opulent mansion owned and populated by a crime family. One of them is Tina’s ex, and he’s so heartbroken and jealous after believing she’s with Danny now that the family puts a hit out of him.
A pair of mob goons follow Danny and Tina from the stately home, back to Manhattan, via the wastelands of New Jersey and back again, all while Danny tries to ignore his own feelings for – and shared understanding with – Tina, get his star client to an important gig and stay alive. It’s a fairly classic (atypical, I mean, not necessarily great) Allen set-up and although it has a bit more klutzy action than most of his films, it’s pretty familiar territory.
At this point I’m nearly all the way through Allen’s past oeuvre so there’s not much more reason to mention how icky and ironic a lot of his favourite topics feel nowadays in the #MeToo era.
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