Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite” is a minor comedy in the pnatheon of the versatile an prolific dircetor, one that could be described as a revenge fantasy.
Allen casts himself as Lenny, a dissatisfied Manhattan sportswriter finds more than he expected when he searches for the biological mother of his adopted child.
Trapped in a bad marriage to the high-strung art dealer Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter), he finds solace in his relationship with his adopted young son. In fact, he grows so fond of the boy that he decides to track down the boy’s real mother, expecting to discover a brilliant woman, if not a genius.
Instead, she turns out to be Linda Ash (aka Judy Cum), splendidly played by Mira Sorvino as the prostitute with the heart of gold and occasional porn star, who mingles casual vulgarity with disarming innocence.
Despite his better instincts and initial resistance, Lenny becomes fond of Linda, and assuming the role of matchmaker, he sets her up with a young boxer (Michael Rapaport), who belongs to her leabgue; he’s warm, good-hearted and scatterbrained.
A culture collision tale, this time revolving around social class and taste, “Mighty Aphrodite” benefits for a while from the contrast between free-spirited Linda and the uptight Lenny.
As a quintessential Allen creature, Lenny (no last name) is more relaxed than his other neurotic screen persona.
But this being a Woody Allen work, the film contains allusions to literature and pop culture, and there’s even a Greek chorus that comments on Lenny’s action and fate.
In the past, Allen has talked directly to the camera, or made asides to people around him. In this picture, however, the chorus serves as a funny formal device in an otherwise dry, undernourished comedy.
Borrowing heavily from Bernard Shaw’s Professor Higgins of “Pygmalion,” Allen-Lenny begins to mold and shape Linda into the kind of mother he thinks his son deserves. You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that this is what Allen the director is trying to do to his actors.
Sorvino, who received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, brings much desired energy and fun to this peculiar film, which is short on plot and ambition, and reveals Allen to be just a quick, offhanded, shallow writer.
The chorus includes such terrific characters actors as F. Murray, as the Leader, Olympia Dukakis as Jocasta, and Jack Warden as Tiresias.
It’s a pleasure to see the lovely, elegant British actress Claire Bloom playing the brief role of Amanda’s mother
Oscar Nominations: 2
Screenplay (Original): Woody Allen
Supporting Actress: Mira Sorvino
Oscar Awards: 1
Lenny (Woody Alen)
Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter)
Leader (F. Murray Abraham)
Amanda’s mother (Claire Bloom)
Jocasta (Olympia Dukakis)
Kevin (Michael Rapaport)
Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino)
Laius (David Ogden Stiers)
Tiresias (Jack warden)
Jerry Bender (Peter Weller)
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Camera: carlo DiPalma
Editing: Susan E. Morse
Music: Dick Hyman
Production Design: Santo Loquasto
Art Direction: Tom Warren
Costumes: jeffrey Kurland
Choreography: Graciela Daniele
Running time: 95 Minutes