Mighty Aphrodite

Movie Review #784: Mira Sorvino’s exceptional performance all but manages to save an otherwise sloppy movie.

By Alexander Diminiano

Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Rated R (contains sexual content, strong language, suggestive dialogue)
95 minutes

History repeats itself. Maybe that’s the case here, but I’d much prefer to think of Woody Allen’s 1995 comedy “Mighty Aphrodite” as a companion piece to his later work “Deconstructing Harry”. The two are so similar. Both are much darker than the average Allen movie. Lots and lots of profanity, and the introduction of a hooker into the story. Also, these both feature Allen’s character consulting literary characters whenever he’s in a predicament.

The latter commonality is admittedly a cloying way of storytelling. In most his films, Allen is seen talking to a psychologist to convey his thoughts, but for reasons I cannot quite understand, the story of Oedipus made its way into “Mighty Aphrodite”. The chorus’s commentary on the circumstances is funny at first, but the joke quickly runs dry, and it makes the film feel a lot more like an outdated Oedipus parody than a tale of its own.

“Mighty Aphrodite” concerns a man named Lenny (Allen), who adopts an ingenious kid and is desperate to meet the mother. Though, once he realizes she’s inadvertently fallen into working as a prostitute, and that she feels bad for giving up her son for adoption, he decides not to tell her that he’s adopted her son, and instead decides to help her get out of prostitution and into barbering, a business she’s always aspired to work in. “Mighty Aphrodite” is a lazy movie. Of course these characters fall in love by the end, though that’s all that really changes here. The plot remains unresolved, with Lenny’s wife unaware that she’s being cheated on, and the prostitute unaware that Lenny’s kid, who she adores, is the kid she gave up for adoption. The Oedipus chorus points this out as ironic in the conclusion, which it is, but that’s no way to tie up all these loose ends we’ve got here. Though the ending is certainly happy, it’s also superficial. It’s difficult not to feel flat-out cheated when we could have had 30 more minutes of comedy for the sake of ending the movie.

“Mighty Aphrodite” is funny, but not like it should be. Its writing is overall rather subpar, particularly when offering Lenny’s wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter), an almost impressively uninteresting character. The movie is just almost decent enough for recommendation, though, and that’s thanks to a single performance. Mira Sorvino, in the role of the hooker with a golden heart, makes the movie more worthwhile than it could have ever been. She offers an unusual but likable and energetic take on the character. Think Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday”, with time to breathe in between phrases, and with much more emotion. Sorvino won for her performance both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. I beg to differ, as a “supporting” actress likely wouldn’t have enough of a performance to make the movie entertaining. ✴


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