Monday, January 27, 2014

Zelig review

Say what you will about Woody Allen's personal life, but the guy can make a good movie. Granted, he's still one weird dude.
We've all seen Woody Allen movies. Whether it's his classic romantic comedies like Manhattan and Annie Hall, or his newer stuff like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris. None of those movies are anything like this one. Zelig is a fictional documentary about a strange man in the 1920's named Leonard Zelig who blends in to whoever he is around. Meaning, if he's around Chinese people, he becomes fully Chinese. If he's around doctors, he becomes a knowledgeable doctor. This film documents his exploits as he's treated for his disorder and becomes a national sensation. It's an unarguably strange premise that's truly unlike what Allen usually does. Yet somehow, it really works. Under the wrong direction, Zelig could have easily become unnecessarily weird or even boring. Under the writing and directing prowess of Woody Allen, Zelig becomes an entertaining and funny look at society and one strange man. The movie starts out showing how Leonard Zelig was discovered at a party by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and then goes on to tell how he was apprehended in Chinatown and brought to a hospital where he underwent lots of testing. The film is interwoven with realistic looking news reel footage and "real" interviews with people who knew him. As preposterous as the whole thing is, at times I almost believed it was real! The pictures are all in black and white and are all scratched up and gritty as if they were archived news reels. I have to admit, before I got really into the movie, I honestly thought the whole thing was an actual documentary. It's just done so well. The acting is great too. It's a mix of seemingly regular people and famous ones like Mia Farrow. They all put on the airs of a regular 1920's civilian. Like the movie, the acting here could have easily been overdone or underdone. That being said, Zelig isn't a masterpiece in cinema. It isn't perfect. It does sometimes poke fun at society and how we blow things out of proportion and put too much attention in a trivial story. It does this by embracing the tabloid wackiness of it all and presenting the story as 100% real. Yet, it doesn't always get it's point across or even seem to know where it's going at times. When it does do things right, it's one of the most wonderfully wacky things I've seen in a while. Allen excels at what he does here. As a Woody Allen fan, I'm a late bloomer. Although it depresses me to say this, the first of his films I saw was Blue Jasmine last summer. While it wasn't bad, I was incredibly underwhelmed and had numerous problems with the movie. As a result of that, I was very turned off to this seemingly overrated Woody Allen guy everyone keeps raving about. Then I watched Annie Hall. I was so blown away by it's sheer comedic genius, I didn't know what to think. I loved it! But surely this could not be the same write/director who did the stuffy and overblown Blue Jasmine? It was. So, I watched Manhattan. Almost as great, equally as funny, a truly terrific film. Then I watched Play It Again, Sam (which he wrote and starred in) and I was hooked. Only after watching Zelig do I realize how much I love Woody Allen. It makes me want to watch all of his movies. And I do plan to. The last time I got this excited about a director was back whenever I started watching Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. I can finally see why everyone seems to love Woody Allen. He is a cinematic genius, and I don't say that often. Seeing how great he can be really makes me want to go back and revisit Blue Jasmine. Maybe I missed something. If you haven't seen Zelig, or any of Allen's other films for that matter, I highly urge you too. As for me, I think I'll go watch a Woody Allen movie. Happy Viewing guys. Remember to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at to keep up with my blog and talk to me about movie related things.

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