Review: Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

Insertions of pathos in all the wrong places can be dangerous!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

I’ve written before about the conclusion I have come to regarding the films of Woody Allen. I like his comedies, and I like his dramas, but I love his films that meet somewhere in the middle. When he is able to find the right balance of comedy and drama, there isn’t an item on the menu that Mr. Allen couldn’t sell me on. When he goes too comedic or too dramatic I tend to not be as big of a fan of his work. I still enjoy a lot of those films from Mr. Allen, but I find that his heavy dramas and zany comedies fail to reach the same heights as his well balanced comedy/dramas.

Enter into this mix a film like Broadway Danny Rose. It plays out as a comedy that is very, very light on drama. In fact there isn’t an ounce of drama to be found in Broadway Danny Rose. The contrasting ingredient in this effort from Mr. Allen is pathos. By the finale of Broadway Danny Rose it becomes clear that this comedy is really a morality play. A story about a man with ethics and loyalty who is shafted because of his ethics and his loyalty. That’s all well and good if the pathos that the film strives for in its final twenty minutes is earned, but I’m not so sure Mr. Allen earns said pathos.

The first hour of Broadway Danny Rose is so heavy on the comedy that the tonal shift of the final twenty minutes is jarring. It’s so jarring that Mr. Allen attempts to bring comedy back into the film in an ill fated Thanksgiving dinner. That attempt falls on its face because Broadway Danny Rose has taken a turn away from its comedy and now the comedy that was its driving force for the first hour feels out of place. Mr. Allen really wants the ending to be about pathos and to drive home a moral point. He succeeds in driving home his point and in making the finale be about pathos. However, he fails in delivering a complete picture, his Broadway Danny Rose is a feature length comedy without an ending that just happens to be followed by a pathos laden short film.

I still liked Broadway Danny Rose, simply because there was a lot to like in the first hour of the film. The crisp black and white cinematography of Gordon Willis is wonderful to behold. There are lots of little moments throughout the film, such as Danny and Tina’s escape from being tied together, that deliver laughs. If only Mr. Allen had been willing to leave the pathos alone, or at the very least to incorporate it into the film at an earlier point. Broadway Danny Rose is an uneven work. It is a compelling work, and I commend Mr. Allen for yet again showcasing his ability to present similar stories in different packages. But, I did not get the whole film I had been hoping for, and that is a shame.




2 responses to “Review: Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

  1. I actually really liked this film. I’m not an Allen fan, but I found his character in this film to be charming and sweet and enjoyed the more lighthearted farce. It had a classic screwball comedy vibe to it.

  2. Yeah, I didn’t have much of a problem with Allen’s character, but I did feel like I wanted more out of the film than it was willing to give me.

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