Mighty Aphrodite is a 1995 American comedy film written, directed by, and co-starring Woody Allen, alongside Mira Sorvino, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Rapaport, and F. Murray Abraham. The screenplay was vaguely inspired by the story of Pygmalion and is about Lenny Weinrib's (Allen) search for his genius adopted son's biological mother, ultimately finding that she is a dim-witted prostitute named Linda Ash (Sorvino).
|Directed by||Woody Allen|
|Written by||Woody Allen|
|Cinematography||Carlo Di Palma|
|Edited by||Susan E. Morse|
|Music by||Dick Hyman|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$26 million|
While critical reception of Mighty Aphrodite overall was mildly positive, Sorvino was highly praised for her performance, earning several accolades such as the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as a Golden Globe Award, New York Film Critics Circle Award, Critics' Choice Movie Award, National Board of Review Award, and a Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award.
The film opens on ancient Greek ruins where a chanting Greek chorus introduces and narrates the story of Lenny Weinrib. Lenny is a sportswriter in Manhattan, married to ambitious curator Amanda. The couple decide to adopt a baby, a boy they name Max. Lenny is awed by their son who, it becomes increasingly clear, is a gifted child.
Lenny becomes obsessed with learning the identity of Max's biological mother. After a long search, Lenny is disturbed to find that she is a prostitute and part-time porn star who uses several names but confesses her birth name is Leslie Ash, and she likes "Linda" because it means “beautiful” in Spanish. Lenny makes an "appointment" to see her at her apartment. Linda is a bit of a ditz with a crude sense of humor and delusions of becoming a stage actress. Lenny does not have intercourse with her but instead urges her to get away from prostitution and start a wholesome life. Linda becomes angry, refunds Lenny's money, and forces him to leave. Lenny, however, is determined to befriend her and improve her life. He first manages to get Linda away from her violent pimp and then attempts to pair Linda with a former boxer, Kevin. They appear to be a well-suited couple until Kevin discovers Linda's background.
Meanwhile, Lenny and Amanda have been drifting apart, due to Lenny's obsession with Linda, but also Amanda's career and her affair with her colleague Jerry. Amanda tells Lenny she wants to explore her relationship with Jerry. Lenny and Linda console each other over their break-ups, and end up finally engaging in intercourse. However, the next day Lenny reconciles with Amanda, and they realize that they are still in love. Linda tries unsuccessfully to get back with Kevin but on the drive back to Manhattan, she sees a helicopter dropping out of the sky. She pulls over and gives the pilot, Don, a ride. It is revealed by the Greek chorus that they will end up married, although Linda is now pregnant with Lenny's child.
About a year later, Linda (with her infant daughter) and Lenny (with Max) meet in a toy store. They both have each other's children but do not realize it. Linda thanks Lenny for everything he did to help her and then leaves Lenny dumbstruck. The film ends with the Greek chorus singing and dancing.
- Woody Allen as Lenny Weinrib
- Mira Sorvino as Linda Ash
- Helena Bonham Carter as Amanda Sloan Weinrib
- Michael Rapaport as Kevin
- F. Murray Abraham as Greek Chorus Leader
- Olympia Dukakis as Jocasta
- David Ogden Stiers as Laius
- Jack Warden as Tiresias
- Danielle Ferland as Cassandra
- Peter Weller as Jerry Bender
- Claire Bloom as Mrs. Sloan
- Paul Herman as Rick's Friend
- Paul Giamatti as Extras Guild Researcher
- Sondra James as The Chorus Voices
Dick Hyman served as the film's music coordinator, arranger, and conductor. The soundtrack includes "Neo Minore" performed by Vassilis Tsitsanis, "Horos Tou Sakena" by Stavros Xarchakos, "I've Found a New Baby" by Wilbur de Paris, "Whispering" by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, "Manhattan" by Carmen Cavallaro, "When Your Lover Has Gone" by Ambrose & His Orchestra, "L'il Darlin" by Count Basie & His Orchestra, "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Penthouse Serenade (When We're Alone)" and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" by Erroll Garner, "The In Crowd" by Ramsey Lewis, and "You Do Something to Me" and "When You're Smiling" by the Dick Hyman Chorus & Orchestra. Graciela Daniele choreographed the dance routines.
Manhattan locations include Bowling Green, Central Park, and FAO Schwarz. Additional exteriors were filmed in North Tarrytown and Quogue. The Greek chorus scenes were filmed in the Teatro antico in Taormina on the island of Sicily.
Mira Sorvino mentioned in a 2011 interview that she chose Linda's voice to be high and gravelly since "high voice kind of makes you sound less intellectually gifted, and the gravelly part just added this kind of rough-and-tumble, been-to-the-school-of-hard-knocks element to it." Four weeks into the production, Allen spoke with Sorvino asking if she had ever wondered about using a different voice. Sorvino stated that the voice affected how she approached the character, and that if she changed the voice the character changed. When she pointed out that they were four weeks into the movie Allen said, "Oh, that doesn't matter. I have it written into my budget that I can reshoot the entire movie if I want."
- Neo Minore - Written and performed by Vasilis Tsitsanis
- Manhattan (1925) - Music by Richard Rodgers - Lyrics by Lorenz Hart - Performed by Carmen Cavallaro
- Penthouse Serenade (1952) - Written by Will Jason and Val Burton - Performed by Erroll Garner
- You Do Something to Me (1929) - Written by Cole Porter - Performed by Dick Hyman
- Take Five (1959) - Written by Paul Desmond - Performed by Dave Brubeck Quartet
- The 'In' Crowd (1965) - Written by Billy Page - Performed by Ramsey Lewis
- Li'l Darlin'(1957) - Written by Neal Hefti - Performed by Count Basie and His Orchestra
- FAO Schwarz Clock Tower Song - Written and Performed by Bobby Gosh
- Horos Tou Sakena - Written by Stavros Xarhakos - Featuring by Giorgos Zambetas
- Whispering (1919) - Music by Richard Coburn, Vincent Rose, John Schonberger - Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
- I've Found a New Baby (1926) - Written by Jack Palmer & Spencer Williams - Performed by Wilbur De Paris
- I Hadn't Anyone Till You (1938) - Written by Ray Noble - Performed by Erroll Garner
- When Your Lover Has Gone (1931) - Written by E.A. Swan - Performed by Bert Ambrose and His Orchestra
- Walkin' My Baby Back Home (1930) - Music by Fred E. Ahlert - Lyrics by Roy Turk - Performed by Dick Hyma
- When You're Smiling (1928) - Written by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin & Larry Shay - Performed by Dick Hyman
Mighty Aphrodite debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival before going into limited release in the United States. It opened on 19 screens and earned $326,494 its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $6,401,297 in the US and $19,598,703 in international markets for a total worldwide box office of $26 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 78% based on reviews from 36 critics, with an average rating of 6.84/10. The site's consensus states: "Mighty Aphrodite may not stand with Woody Allen's finest work, but it's brought to vivid life by a thoroughly winsome performance from Mira Sorvino." On Metacritic it has a score of 59 out of 100 based on 16 reviews from critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "a sunny comedy" and added, "The movie's closing scene is quietly, sweetly ironic, and the whole movie skirts the pitfalls of cynicism and becomes something the Greeks could never quite manage, a potential tragedy with a happy ending."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Leah Garchik said the film was "an inventive movie, imaginative and rich in detail" and added, "Woody Allen's incredible wit is at the heart of all that's wonderful in Mighty Aphrodite, and Woody Allen's incredible ego is at the core of its major flaw . . . He fails when he attempts . . . to get the audience to suspend its disbelief and accept Allen, a withered Romeo, as a sweet-natured naif. The crotchety charm of the shy and awkward characters he played as a young man has worn off; nowadays, he comes across as just plain crotchety."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "The film is a showcase for Sorvino, actor Paul's Harvard-grad daughter, who gives a sensational performance. She shows startling humor and heart without trading on sentiment."
In Variety, Todd McCarthy described the film as "a zippy, frothy confection that emerges as agreeable middle-range Woody . . . There is perhaps a bit too much of the chorus galavanting about delivering their increasingly colloquial admonitions and too few convulsive laughs, but the writer-director has generally pitched the humor at a pleasing and relatively consistent level . . . The film's biggest surprise, and attraction, is Sorvino . . . [who] goes way beyond the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold externals of the part in developing a deeply sympathetic and appealing character. None of the diverse roles she has done to date would have suggested her for this part, but this gutsy performance will put her much more prominently on the map."
Awards and nominationsEdit
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