(director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Carlo Di Palma; editor: Susan E. Morse; music: Philip Braham, Douglas Furber; cast: William Hurt (Doug Tate), Mia Farrow (Alice Tate), Joe Mantegna (Joe Ruffalo), June Squibb (Hilda), Keye Luke (Dr. Yang), Julie Kavner (decorator), Alec Baldwin (Ed), Blythe Danner (Dorothy), Cybill Shepherd (Nancy Brill), Bernadette Peters (Muse), Gwen Verdon (Alice’s Mother), Patrick O’Neal (Alice’s Father); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Robert Greenhut; MGM Home Entertainment; 1990)
“It works nicely as a minor Allen comedy, but one that comes off as inauthentic.
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”/”Zelig”) is the writer-director of this lighthearted comical look at a wealthy Manhattan housewife, Alice Tate (Mia Farrow), unhappy in her 16 year marriage to her adulterous, workaholic stockbroker hubby Doug (William Hurt).
Alice one day, on a recommendation by friends, goes to Chinatown to see the Chinese herbalist Dr. Yang (Keye Luke, the co-star of the Charlie Chan films who calls it a career with this film), for back pains. After treating her with some herbals, she returns the next day and he tells her the problems emanate from her head and heart. Dr. Yang lays some psychotherapy on her, as he questions her phony life style and gets her to take Chinese herbs as a love potion and herbs that make her invisible so she can spy on those close to her.
It leads to a self-discovery trip for the lost soul, who experiences a spiritual reawakening. Life for Alice veers between her strict guilt-ridden Catholic upbringing and her liberating fantasy life. One of the funnier scenes has Alice dealing with a potent love potion. Farrow carries the film, conveying her serious inner turmoil that she keeps buried inside her while also keeping the door open for Allen’s comic take on all this alternative culture treatment.
Of the supporting cast, Joe Mantegna gets to shine the most. He’s the nice guy single parent musician Alice fantasizes about scoring when they meet in her kid’s elite school at a parent conference. For an Allen film, there’s actually some substance behind the typical vapid neurotic humor the director employs. It works nicely as a minor Allen comedy, but one that comes off as inauthentic.
REVIEWED ON 4/1/2019 GRADE: B-