Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fidelity: Celebrity's Silver Screen Silver Lining

Woody Allen's 1998 film Celebrity is famously bookended by the word 'Help'. This, one would assume, is meant to underscore the dissipated, hypocritical and pretentious nature of the character's lives. In the main, the movies characters are not the sort with whom one would want to fall in love. Nearly every character in the movie leaves love in ruins. If this is the rule of Celebrity, it's exception is found in the marriage between Tony Gardella (Joe Mantegna) and Robin Simon (Judy Davis).

Celebrity's surprising theme is that a happy life is often more readily available in humdrum domesticity. Let's look at this from a few angles.

The first angle is the most obvious. Tony Gardella and Robin Simon are content and happy. The Celebrity story arc beats and butchers each romance mercilessly, save this one. By the end credits, only Tony and Robin remain together, and the viewer is left confident that they will remain together.

You'll recall that the movie has two blow job scenes. In the first, Nicole Oliver (Melanie Griffith) and Lee Simon (Kenneth Branagh) cheat on their spouses while "on location" for an interview. The point of the scene is to establish the glamorous Nicole Oliver as promiscuous and shallow and Lee Simon as an unfaithful, uncertain opportunist. The second scene is perhaps the films funniest. In this scene Robin Simon visits Nina (Bebe Nuewith), hooker and sex expert, to get some pointers. What the audience learns in this scene is that Robin is totally committed to Tony, even to the point of going the extra mile to improve their love life. In other words, the first scene showcases selfish infidelity while the second trumpets selfless fidelity. The difference between Lee and Robin Simon is the difference between loving oneself and loving another. Is there any wonder why the love between Tony and Robin lasts?

Allen brings this theme to forefront even more obviously when Robin and Tony first meet at the office of the famed cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Lupus. Tony is immediately taken by Robin's beauty. This is ironic given the location--Robin is in the doctor's chair receiving consultation on all the ways she should fix her face. But Tony loves her face, in all its working class simplicity. Tony does not fawn over the famous; Tony is not a sucker for the superficial.

As mentioned above, Tony and Robin are willing to work for their love. They're not fickle, and they're not in love with an opportunity or an ideal. With Robin, this is evident in her visit with Nina. Tony's commitment to forgive and forget is found in his taking Robin back after she stands him up at the altar. Rather than flying off the handle or deciding to push along, Tony reaffirms his love for Robin and wins her over.

No comments: