It's Springtime in New York and love is in the air. For D.J. (Natasha Lyonne) the members of her extended family are always having romantic problems, none more so than her father, Joe (Woody Allen), who has had a string of unsuccessful relationships after leaving her mother, Steffi (Goldie Hawn), who is now married to Bob (Alan Alda). While her step-sister Schuyler (Drew Barrymore) is getting engaged to Holden (Edward Norton), D.J. travels to Venice on holiday with Joe, where they see Von (Julia Roberts) who she recognises from her friend's psychiatrist mother's therapy sessions. D.J. hatches a plan to bring the two together, using the knowledge she has gained from eavesdropping.
Not short of plot, Everyone Says I Love You was Woody Allen's version of the classic Hollywood musical, but he wanted a realism brought to the music, so everyone in the cast, whether they could sing well or not, performed the numbers themselves. Well, almost everyone, Drew Barrymore is dubbed, supposedly because her singing voice didn't match her role's dreamy personality. The result is awkward, yet not without charm, as Allen and Roberts look uncomfortable during their songs (and don't sound much better), while Hawn sings and dances like a professional.
As far as the story goes, love rules the lives of the characters. The younger ones are naive, with schoolgirl crushes or fickle hearts, and Schuyler breaks off her engagement to Holden when she becomes infatuated with an ex-convict (overplayed by Tim Roth) her activist mother is trying to reform. The older people have problems of their own, and Joe's wooing of Von is difficult when he sees the ups and downs of love in terms like "survivor guilt", and relies on being someone he's not to secure her affections. The only successful relationship is Bob and Steffi's, who are so wrapped up in others' trials and tribulations that they don't have time for their own.
There are the big (fairly big, anyway) dance sequences that you would expect, which come across as either silly, as in the jubilant "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" from the ghosts in the funeral chapel, or inspired, as in the rendition of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" in French, performed by a group of Groucho Marxes at a party near the end. Anyone can burst into song at any time, from the stars to the bit part actors, like a taxi driver or a doctor.
As the singing makes everyone in the cast equal - they all have to give it a try - so does the romance give them all something in common. There may be a hint of satire when Bob and Steffi have to face up to the unpleasant prospect of the convict as a son-in-law (Roth sings too), having them unwittingly side with their hectoring, right wing son (Lukas Haas), but mostly this is an amusing trifle, not hilarious, but diverting. There's even a sense of a multicultural society beyond the usual Allen world of middle class neurosis, for a change.
Good jokes give us Joe as a great lover (I like the way he's carrying a stick of French bread when we first see him in Paris, so we know where he is) and Allen and Hawn casually slipping into Groucho impersonations, and there's a gentle, philosophical note to end on. It's refreshing to consider that if this had been a big Hollywood production, you would not have seen Edward Norton dance as badly as he does, or hear examples of the stars' mediocre singing, which means the film is something a little bit special. Just a little bit, mind, it's not going to knock Singin' in the Rain off its pedestal.
American writer/director/actor and one of the most distinctive talents in American film-making over the last three decades. Allen's successful early career as a stand-up comedian led him to start his directing life with a series of madcap, scattershot comedies that included Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death. 1975's Oscar-winning Annie Hall was his first attempt to weave drama and comedy together, while 1979's Manhattan is considered by many critics to be Allen's masterpiece.
The 90s saw Allen keep up his one-film-a-year work-rate, the most notable being the fraught Husbands and Wives, gangster period piece Bullets Over Broadway, the savagely funny Deconstructing Harry and the under-rated Sweet and Lowdown. After a run of slight, average comedies, Allen returned to more ambitious territory with the split-story Melinda and Melinda, the dark London-set drama Match Point, romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of many of his films which won acting Oscars, and the unexpected late-on hits Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.