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Thursday, June 30, 2022

In Defence of: Celebrity

Kenneth Branagh dons his best fast-talking, over-gesticulated, hopelessly neurotic Woody Allen impersonation in Allen’s dissection and satire of modern celebrity culture. In fact, Branagh’s impression is so uncanny it’s a wonder Allen didn’t simply cast himself as the lead, as was custom in his earlier films. It’s often bracketed along with Allen’s “unsuccessful” forays into light comedy, but Celebrity is a biting and brutal observation of the lengths some people will go to in order to secure fame and fortune.

It’s as star-studded as the world it depicts, packed with red hot cameos from the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio, Charlize Theron, and Melanie Griffith, all appearing in hilarious sketch-like segments as ridiculous carica- tures of materialistic and vacuous superstars. Branagh is entertainingly annoying as Lee Simon, a celebrity journalist fighting his way to the top, and Judy Davis is on fine form too as his unraveling ex-wife, Robin (who strangely also seems to be playing Allen, albeit a female version). Robin’s journey is the precise opposite of Lee, who squanders any fruitful opportunities for fleeting sex as well as his constant quest for his own 15 minutes of fame. Robin, on the other hand, swaps her neuroses and insecurities for a complete makeover transformation and romance with TV producer Joe Mantegna, leading to her own successful talk show. She puts her own happiness first, rather than trying to please everybody like her ex-husband.

It’s more than just an exploration of celebrity; it’s about the different paths we choose to take in order to achieve our goals. It’s about integrity, morality, and veracity. It’s about being true to one’s self and not being afraid to say “no” sometimes. In spite of its glossy façade, Celebrity is, perhaps surprisingly, actually one of Allen’s most poignant philosophies. 

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