×

Bullets Over Broadway

Woody Allen works a clever twist on the Cyrano theme in "Bullets Over Broadway," a backstage comedy bolstered by healthy shots of prohibition gangster melodrama and romantic entanglements. Not all the characters in the colorful ensemble cast are well developed, but constantly amusing confection keeps improving as it scoots along and result should please the Woodman's fans, even if breakout with a wider public is unlikely.

With:
David Shayne - John Cusack
Julian Marx - Jack Warden
Cheech - Chazz Palminteri
Nick Valenti - Joe Viterelli
Olive Neal - Jennifer Tilly
Sheldon Flender - Rob Reiner
Ellen - Mary-Louise Parker
Helen Sinclair - Dianne Wiest
Sid Loomis - Harvey Fierstein
Warner Purcell - Jim Broadbent
Eden Brent - Tracey Ullman

Woody Allen works a clever twist on the Cyrano theme in “Bullets Over Broadway,” a backstage comedy bolstered by healthy shots of prohibition gangster melodrama and romantic entanglements. Not all the characters in the colorful ensemble cast are well developed, and some of the subplots peter out, but constantly amusing confection keeps improving as it scoots along and result should please the Woodman’s fans, even if breakout with a wider public is unlikely.

This is Allen’s first indie venture away from his longtime studio affiliations, although nothing has changed aesthetically or productionwise in this Miramax release, as longtime behind-the-scenes collaborators are still on board to turn out an unusually handsome 1920s period piece.

Casting lends the film a slightly different feel, however, as Allen is absent onscreen, and, for the first time since “Stardust Memories” (with the exception of “Oedipus Wrecks” in “New York Stories”), neither Diane Keaton nor Mia Farrow turns up in an important female role.

The neurotic, hypochondriacal Allen personality is present nonetheless in the form of David Shayne (John Cusack), a young Greenwich Village playwright who rants, “I’m an artist!” and swears to his bohemian friends that he’ll brook no compromise in the production of his new play.Shane quickly changes his tune, however, when producer Julian Marx (Jack Warden) informs him that he’s found a backer for a Broadway opening of “God of Our Fathers,” with the proviso that the man’s girlfriend play a prominent role.

Persuaded of the wisdom of this course, Shayne, who also insists on directing , goes along with the arrangement, but almost has a seizure when he meets the “actress,” Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly), a goo-voiced bimbo who’s supposed to play a psychiatrist even though she doesn’t know what “masochistic” means and her only qualification for the stage is that she’s the mistress of big-time mobster Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli).

Faced with the consequences of his decision, Shayne wakes up at night shrieking, “I sold out! I’m a whore!” and must also tolerate the critical barbs of Olive’s thuggish bodyguard Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), who sits in on all rehearsals to keep an eye on Olive.

The shenanigans of these characters, as well as the rest of the play’s cast, including Jim Broadbent, Tracey Ullman and grande dame leading lady Dianne Wiest (who takes an intense personal interest in Shayne), consume most of the seriocomic attention as the play wends its way, first to Boston, then back to New York.

Giving the confection some unexpected resonance are, initially, some surprising sparks between fastidious leading man Warner Purcell (Broadbent, in what might once have been called the Denholm Elliott role) and Olive, and, much more important, the evolution of Palminteri’s character.

A street hoodlum and hit man, Cheech begins by telling Shayne, “You don’t write like people talk,” and gradually makes secret contributions to the play-in-progressthat end up saving it from major flopdom. The discovery of one man’s artistry with the simultaneous uncovering of another’s lack of same gives the largely artificial piece some pleasing weight, something aided immeasurably by Palminteri’s thoroughly delightful performance.

Cusack functions as the director’s stand-in right down to the frantic complaining and flailing mannerisms, and Tilly, Viterelli, Warden and Broadbent all deliver expert comic turns.

Wiest is initially on the money as the theatrical prima donna with a creeping Norma Desmond complex, but role acquires no further dimension as matters progress, and her romance with Shayne seems rote. Ullman’s part is even more sketchily written, and Mary-Louise Parker does what little she can on the sidelines as Shayne’s g.f. Rob Reiner has a couple of good scenes as a Village philosopher.

Santo Loquasto’s opulent production design creates magnificent period backdrops for the careening action, Jeffrey Kurland’s costumes complement them perfectly, and Carlo Di Palma’s warm lensing bathes everything in a red-and-yellow glow. In its mixing of showbiz and gangsters, this is a nice companion piece to Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose,” and about as amusing.

Bullets Over Broadway

Production: A Miramax release from Sweetland Films of a Jean Doumanian production. Produced by Robert Greenhut. Executive producers, Doumanian, J.E. Beaucaire. Co-producer, Helen Robin. Co-executive producers, Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe , Letty Aronson. Directed by Woody Allen. Screenplay, Allen, Douglas McGrath.

Crew: Camera (DuArt color; Technicolor prints), Carlo Di Palma; editor, Susan E. Morse; production design, Santo Loquasto; art direction, Tom Warren; set decoration, Susan Bode, Amy Marshall; costume design, Jeffrey Kurland; sound (Dolby), Frank Graziadei; associate producer-assistant director, Thomas Reilly; casting, Juliet Taylor. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Aug. 31, 1994. (In Telluride, Venice, Toronto, New York film festivals.) Running time: 99 min.

With: David Shayne - John Cusack
Julian Marx - Jack Warden
Cheech - Chazz Palminteri
Nick Valenti - Joe Viterelli
Olive Neal - Jennifer Tilly
Sheldon Flender - Rob Reiner
Ellen - Mary-Louise Parker
Helen Sinclair - Dianne Wiest
Sid Loomis - Harvey Fierstein
Warner Purcell - Jim Broadbent
Eden Brent - Tracey Ullman

More Film

  • PMKBNC

    PMK-BNC Executive Joy Fehily Resigns, Will Consult and Manage Seth MacFarlane (EXCLUSIVE)

    Top Hollywood publicist and executive Joy Fehily has resigned from her post at public relations firm PMK-BNC, individuals familiar with the move told Variety. Fehily steps down in the midst of a five-year deal with the show business institution, insiders said, which reps A-list actors and below-the-line talent as well as huge brands like American [...]

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening

    Academy Museum Opening Delayed Again to 2020

    The opening date of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been delayed again, this time to an unspecified date in 2020. The museum, now under construction at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, has long been beset by delays and cost overruns. In December 2018, the Academy announced that it would open [...]

  • Bradley Cooper speaks at the 30th

    Producers Guild Shifts 2020 Awards Show to Hollywood Palladium

    The Producers Guild of America will hold its 31st Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, shifting the site from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The PGA had already announced that the show would take place on Jan. 18. The organization, which represents more than 8,000 producers, announced Thursday that it has launched a new [...]

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content