MIGHTY APHRODITE, Woody Allen’s 25th clever muse as writer-director, won Mira Sorvino a richly deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress of 1995. Her delightful performance as a conversationally profane, emotionally sweet porn star/hooker with a bod for sin, a head full of sawdust and a heart made of honey saw her, from her first scene to her last, walk away with the show. Along with Sorvino’s happy win, Allen’s screenplay was nominated. *
CASSANDRA: “I see disaster. I see catastrophe. Worse, I see lawyers!”
Sportswriter ‘Lenny Weinrib’ (Allen) wasn’t crazy about adoption, but his wife ‘Amanda’ (Helena Bonham Carter) won out. ‘Max’ turns out to be so smart that Lenny becomes obsessed with finding the child’s real parents, thinking they must be brilliant as well. To his shock, he finds that ‘Linda Ash’ (Mira Sorvino), the real mother, is a hooker and porn star, and not the brightest cookie in the jar. As Lenny gets to know Linda, he seeks to change her situation, even as Amanda is increasingly distanced from him. At one point it seems Lenny has found the perfect mate for Linda, a boxer named ‘Kevin’, amiable if intellect-absent. Accompanying the relationship cobweb, a Greek chorus (led by F.Murray Abraham) links the part-Pygmalion plot with the timeless tale of Oedipus.
The set-up is clever, the jokes are good, but Sorvino’s ebullient charm is what really saves the day, as the Chorus interludes wear themselves thin and the stammering back & forth strife between Allen & Bonham Carter (doing duty as The Stock Mia Farrow Neurotic) just treads water Woody had long since channeled.
Sorvino, meanwhile, is adorable, and her Linda may be dumb as a duck, but she’s kind and honest. The whole blonde bimbo as sex object shtick is only truly sexy if the performer is so engaging that it seems like romping with them—as their characters, anyway— would actually be fun (Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Anna Faris) rather than a matter of mechanics (too many to list). Mira’s Linda is va-voom and then some, but what counts is that you care about her. Plus, she’s got a great laugh.
LINDA: “You’re married, aren’t you?” LENNY: “How can you tell that?” LINDA: ‘”Cause you got that look.” LENNY: “That look?” What… what look is that?” LINDA: “That look like it’s been a long time since you had a great blowjob.”
The Greek Chorus segments were shot at the Teatro Greco, an ancient Roman theater in Taormina, Sicily, built in 300 B.C. Filmed for $15,000,000, money-wise it didn’t make much noise in the US, taking just $6,468,000, but foreign grosses brought that up to $26,000,000.
With Jack Warden (a funny bit), Peter Weller, Dan Moran, Daniel Ferland, David Ogden Stiers, Olympia Dukakis, Claire Bloom (barely there, almost an afterthought), Steven Randazzo, Tony Sirico, Paul Giamatti and Pamela Blair.
* An incidental in-joke is that Sorvino, here playing a ditz, in real life graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, and is fluent in French and Mandarin Chinese.