“Of all human weaknesses, obsession is the most dangerous, and the silliest!”
When you direct and write a film every year you can’t expect to always deliver a masterpiece, and that is the case with Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. It’s a delightful and enjoyable film, but it doesn’t seem to add up to much. When you compare it to his extensive filmography it wouldn’t even land in the top half of his best work because it’s far from being memorable. He’s directed so many movies that several of them feel incredibly familiar and for that reason they are easy to forget. He repeats several of the same themes throughout his movies and Mighty Aphrodite isn’t the exception, especially putting a lot of emphasis on love and infidelity which are recurring themes in Allen’s films. At times his films stand out for simply capturing these human emotions in a new way, and at others they do thanks to a particularly strong performance. In this case it was Mira Sorvino’s supportive performance as Linda Ash that garnered all the attention playing a hooker who isn’t all that right in the head. The way she delivered her lines with her high-pitched voice contributed to the overall comedy of her character. If there is one thing that I will remember from this forgettable Allen film it’s her Oscar winning performance. Despite her solid performance this is still one of the weakest Woody Allen movies I’ve seen.
In Mighty Aphrodite Woody Allen plays Lenny, a sportswriter, who is married to Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter). In order to spark some life into their monotonous relationship they decide to adopt a son who they name Max. After several years Lenny is surprised to discover that Max is such a brilliant kid and so he decides to search for his biological parents convinced that they must have great genes. He visits the adoption agency and is denied the files, but his curiosity gets the best of him and he finds a way to steal them. He tracks down the biological mother only to discover that she is a prostitute who is now going by the name of Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny sets up an appointment with her and is disappointed that she ended up being so dumb. Concerned with her lifestyle, Lenny tries to help Linda by reforming her and setting her up with some respectable man. Meanwhile, Lenny and Amanda are going through some marital problems of their own. The narrative is linked with a bizarre Greek chorus (led by F. Murray Abraham) that compares Lenny’s story with the Greek tragedy Oedipus.
Allen always delivers some witty dialogues and funny situations in his films which make them such an entertaining ride. Mighty Aphrodite has a few moments like this that work well, but as a whole it is a very forgettable movie. Allen plays once again a sort of neurotic character who is fascinated with discovering who his adopted son’s mother really is. Sorvino’s performance is brilliant and elevates the material, but there isn’t more to it. Neither Allen nor Bonham Carter seem to stand out and their relationship isn’t central to the film. The Greek chorus was far from interesting and only took away from the story by trying to hard to compare the modern tale with the Greek one. It’s a light and corny film that is saved by Sorvino’s presence and Allen’s distinctive style of humor.