Bullets Over Broadway: Directed by Woody Allen. With John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Chazz Palminteri. In New York in 1928, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.
Struggling 1920s playwright David Shayne (John Cusack), having failed to secure financing for his latest work, reluctantly makes a deal with mob boss Nick Valenti (Joe Viterelli) : a Broadway debut with the chance to direct, as long as Nick’s flibbertigibbet girlfriend, Olive (Jennifer Tilly), plays one of the lead roles.
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Woody Allen’s 1994 black comedy was nominated for an impressive seven Academy Awards and brings together a mouthwatering ensemble, including John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Tracey Ullman and Jim Broadbent. Broadbent, in particular, is one of our proudest acting talents from the UK, so I was fascinated to see how he would slot into a Woody Allen film. I’ve seen a fair few Allen movies over the years with Annie Hall remaining his unquestionable masterpiece, in my opinion, but the early signs for Bullets Over Broadway were certainly promising.
Set in 1928, fledgling playwright David Shayne (Cusack) is trying to make it big on Broadway. He has the talent but the big success continues to elude him. That looks to be changing with his latest play, God Of Our Fathers, when he lands himself an interesting cast. There is Helen Sinclair (Wiest), a full-blown diva who has plenty of experience behind her despite the tantrums; Warner Purcell (Broadbent) who loves good food and women aplenty; but the biggest problem is the inexperienced Olive Neal (Tilly). Olive is the girlfriend of a gangster and Shayne gets support with his play in exchange for her appearing in it even though acting is not her forte! To add complications to the mix, Olive has a chaperone in the form of Cheech (Chaz Palminteri) who takes no nonsense from Shayne when it comes to Olive and even has a few ideas of his own about the play itself. Will Shayne negotiate this maelstrom of complicated rehearsals and land a successful hit on Broadway or will the whole thing fall apart?
Woody Allen is absent from the cast in Bullets Over Broadway but Cusack’s narration slots in well in his stead. This is undeniably well-scripted and the cast on show is a dream especially the likes of Broadbent, Cusack and Tilly, but it is the Oscar-winning Wiest who steals the show. Helen Sinclair is ridiculously dramatic and Wiest looks like she is having an absolute ball playing her. I often find with some Allen films that they build up really well but the pay off doesn’t always match the hard work leading up to it. We do get resolutions here with Bullets Over Broadway but it all seems a bit too easy and by the end credits we have a great cast that have been utilised well but you just feel like Allen could have pushed things a bit more.
Verdict: An entertaining Broadway farce with gangsters thrown in but not Woody Allen’s best work.