Saturday, April 09, 2011
#98: Broadway Danny Rose
'Agita, my gumba in the banzone, tra la la la' thus begins Broadway Danny Rose and I am laughing already as I am writing this. To give you a context, this is the song that plays out in the beginning as the opening credits start appearing in that familiar Woody Allen font as I like to call it. ( It's Windsor Light Condensed for the record.) We don't know the song and we don't know the singer and then we see four people at a restaurant probably meeting over a weekend for a drink and the conversation veers towards Danny Rose.
Danny Rose (Woody Allen) is a talent manager whose clients range from a blind xylophone player to a balloon folder ( yes, that's correct). Somewhere in between this range, is a temperamental but an immensely talented Italian singer Lou Canova ( Nick Apollo Forte). Lou Canova used to be a big hit not so long ago but his drinking and fights with his girlfriend had begun impacting his career. Danny Rose, the ever loyal manager, however continues to pitch him favorably to all and sundry. We see the movie in flashback through that very conversation that those four friends are having in the restaurant. This particular narrative style was also later seen in Forget, Paris and much later in our very own Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Was Broadway Danny Rose a pioneer in this narrative style, I think it was but am not sure.
While Danny Rose and Lou Canova are working towards a comeback, hope springs from an opportunity that Danny Rose lands up with. Lou is getting to perform at the Wardorf Astoria in front of a key show business person - someone who if Lou managed to impress, the careers of both Lou and Rose could sky rocket. There's just one hitch - Lou refuses to perform unless Danny Rose brings his ex-girlfriend Tina (Mia Farrow) to come to Wardorf Astoria. Now our man Rose is going to do whatever it takes to get Tina on D-Day to the hotel and that is the essence of Broadway Danny Rose the movie and Broadway Danny Rose , the character. It is this character that's the backbone of the movie and Woody Allen in one of his finest performances rises to the occasion. He's boringly nice but effortlessly funny. He also strings the story together between the irascible Tina and the unstable Lou Canova. Both Mia Farrow and Nick Forte bring the requisite flimsiness of their characters to the fore. They are both alike and that's why get along well. Their chemistry emerges because they fight and that's a credit to some excellent writing by Woody Allen.
The movie works not just because of these three seasoned actors but also a neatly streamlined story that has it's surprises in place. The context of stand-up acts in the city of New York is something that Marty Scorsese had explored in 1977 with New York, New York and while one can't help but think back to that movie, you can be assured that Broadway Danny Rose has genes that are so uniquely funny, that spending time on it is more than your money's worth. And just when you thought that the movie's good enough to end on a high, there's this one last stroke of brilliance that Woody brings in with help from his long-time collaborator DOP Gordon Willis, that springboards this movie into my list of top 10 romantic comedies ever.
If I say any more, I might just give away too much. But to keep it simple, Broadway Danny Rose is a class act. Take a bow, Woody, the applause will continue to be heard for generations !
P.S: Agita my gumba is Lou Canova's signature song composed and sung by the Nick Apollo Forte himself.