Woody Allen's latest picture follows the fortunes of Kenneth Branagh's self-absorbed celebrity journalist as he dumps his wife after 16 years of marriage, and embarks upon a sex spree with a series of younger women.
"Branagh has got every last stutter, gulp and hand gesticulation down to a T, but you are never allowed to forget the performance - and believe in the character," noted Anthony Quinn. "A mawkish, clumsy and unfunny mess," snapped The Mirror, while The Express growled: "Gross misogyny is only the worst of the film's flaws." "Celebrity does not have the horsepower of Allen's better films, but it has some some beautifully crafted gags," equivocated The Guardian. The Evening Standard called it "as gaseous as the airheads who inhabit it."
The film succeeds as a portrait of the trappings of fame, though Branagh's imitation of Allen's mannerisms proves too distracting.
Celebrity is out on nationwide release, certificate 15. 113 minutes
Geraldine McEwan camps it up as Judith Bliss, the grande dame presiding over the ritual humiliation of her weekend guests, in Declan Donnellan's revival of Noel Coward's 1925 comedy of bohemian bad manners.
"Donnellan vigorously ups the pollen count, reducing civilised ritual to a chimps' tea party... All in all, a Hay Fever not to be sneezed at," wrote Paul Taylor. "Miss McEwan is a joy as Judith... so don't catch a cold, catch Hay Fever!" cried the Daily Mail. "[Coward's comedy] was transformed, trashed and travestied by Donnellan and his well-regarded actors," stormed the Evening Standard. "Watching this dismal production, one can't help wondering if Donnellan has a grudge against Coward," protested the Daily Telegraph, adding: "If so, he's certainly got his revenge now."
McEwen is a riot, while Monica Dolan and Stephen Mangan are wonderfully weird as her offspring. Purists will be horrified.
Hay Fever is at the Savoy Theatre, London WC2, (0171-836 8888) until 14 August