Over dinner a group of New York agents try to best one another with stories of Danny Rose, Broadways least successful agent. The winning tale involves Danny babysitting comeback singer Lou Canovas girlfriend when he starts to fall for her, two mobster
Back when there was loveableness to Woody Allen’s work, when he bordered his philosophising and quaint studies of losers in the game of romance, with traces of parody, he delivered this slight but delightful tale of an all-count loser. Danny Rose is all heart but no talent, which could equally go for his muddle of novelty acts including xylophonists, milk bottle players (“Never had a lesson!”) even a bird that can get a tune out of a piano. He’s a nonsense, the punchline to his peers jokes. Even his sole credible act is an aging singer with a booze problem and a mistress who needs managing in her own right. Nothing goes well for Danny, but then he’s played with all Allen’s magnificent gusts of neurotic jabber, forever hunched and apologetic, but the master performer never lets us forget he’s a human being.
The plot, relayed by a gabble of well-oiled fellow agents (played by the real deal) at the Carnegie Deli, has Danny forced to play partner to Nick Apollo’s aging but reasonably talented crooner’s latest squeeze-on-the-side. When they have a fight, it transpires she’s also got a Mafioso on the go. Next thing you know, hyper-nervous Danny is starting down the barrel of a mobster’s gun. And this being in the classic Allen mould, where the real heart gets the girl, he falls for this brassy headache himself.
Mia Farrow, for once, works firmly against her typical chiselled, intellectual waifs, Tina is set with sunglasses, attitude and an ever-present puff of cigarette smoke. She’s so far out of Danny’s reach, he might as well not exist. Apollo is a good discovery, he’s plays Lou Canonva louche and loud, but soft, sticking by this schmuck of an agent even when better offers could have sent him flying, These are the touchstones for Allen’s slender, rascally comedy: loyalty over success, love over social status. It’s a fairy-tale, a glittering New York fable told in a silvery black and white, laden with nostalgia for times and oddities long gone from the hallowed halls of Broadway.
Another Allen gem.