I have an overly generous soft spot for Everyone Says I Love You, Woody Allen’s musical from 1996. I was backpacking around Europe when it was released and saw it in Paris, so it was probably always going to charm me even if it wasn’t packed with the kind of Tin Pan Alley songs I happen to like.
The story of this film is in the Hannah And Her Sisters style of a sprawling family-and-friends group, only instead of just Manhattan, Woody steps off the island for the first time since Love And Death to include Venice and Paris. Various couples from various generations fall in and out of love, old songs are sung and much scenery is lovingly shot. Getting into the story too much would only reveal what a soupçon of a plot it really is. And yet it does do the job of weaving in and out of each character’s story and moving things along at a pace.
It seems apt to be watching this film around the middle-mark of this retrospective because in some ways it both harks back to Woody’s early work and looks forward to his later work. In this film he and Goldie Hawn dance by the Seine where once he shared a scene with Peter Sellers in What’s New Pussycat. This film also dips into the ‘tourist filmmaker’ label Woody has been occasionally given with his successful run of films set in Europe since Match Point, with lovingly shot scenes set around the Grand Canal in Venice and under the shadow of Notre Dame in Paris.
The self-reflexive bits don’t stop there. The plot device in which Woody’s character learns about Julia Roberts’s character’s fantasies from his daughter eavesdropping through a wall on psychiatrist sessions was used in Another Woman. There is was drama, and here it is pure comedy. That plot strand also yields some Woody throwback style comedy; the scene in which he recites some quickly learned facts about Tintoretto to impress Roberts is as funny, and goofy, as scenes in Play It Again Sam.
Then there is also a parade of known Woody Allen loves, such as the overt Marx Brothers references. Not only is the title song taken from their film Horsefeathers, but as the second-to-last song we get an entire troupe of Groucho Marxes in various iconic costumes sing ‘Hooray For Captain Spaulding’. In French!
All this is to say if you like Woody Allen films, and the sort of arcane movies and music he likes, you’ll like this film. But being more objective, or at least trying to, just how good is Everyone Says I Love You? It certainly has its charms but it is just as certainly totally inconsequential. For instance, it is often remarked about this film that the actors are not trained singers, which is true, and is one of the reasons the film can seem either whimsical or lazy. The editing of musicals is usually a key part of its construction, whereas here more often than not Woody seems content to just shoot long takes from one angle.
But I can’t really be objective about this film. I bought a poster of this film in France (where it was titled Tout Le Monde Dit I Love You) and I really like the soundtrack, wobbly vocals and all. Watching it again, it does seem lazy in parts, and doesn’t seem to make any grand statement or searing insight, and none of the younger generation of actors seem all that comfortable in it. But it still has plenty of fun songs, great one-liners and an undeniable winsomeness.
I guess whether you’re in the mood for mid-90s winsomeness is up to you. Looking ahead to next week, I remember that what Woody did next was go in the completely opposite direction.
Next week: Deconstructing Harry