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No. 2, January 1999
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Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Mira Sorvino
biography and her movies Mighty Aphrodite, The Replacement Killers, At First Sight and Summer of Sam

Biography and filmography Filme mit Mira Sorvino bei Amazon.de
 
Mira Sorvino was born in September 1967 in Tenafly, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Lorraine and actor Paul Sorvino and has a brother and a sister. She was raised very religiously. Her parents divorced when she was 21. Mira became interested in China through the reading of The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and a Chinese girlfriend with whom she spent time in Chinatown. She graduated magna cum laude with a major in East Asian Studies at Harvard University in 1990. For her thesis "Anti-Africanism in the People's Republic of China" she spent eight months in China and learned to speak Mandarin fluently. After Harvard, she had some part-time jobs (as a waitress and teaching Chinese) and worked for some time as a script reader for Robert De Niro's Tribeca Productions company. In 1993, she became associate producer of Amongst Friends. She was Quentin Tarantino's girlfriend for three years in the second half of the nineties. Her new boyfriend is French actor Olivier Martinez (The Horseman on the Roof) - according to an interview, Mira Sorvino also speaks French.
 
She is a very versatile actress who easily takes varied accents and ethnic identities. In Whit Stillman's Barcelona (1994), Mira Sorvino played a Catalan translator. She had a small part as the Jewish intellectual wife of Rob Morrow in Robert Redford's Quiz Show (1994). In her breakthrough-year 1995, she played the Brazilian-born beauty Conchita Closson in the BBC Miniseries "The Buccaneers" based on Edith Wharton's novel. She also had a small part in Blue in the Face with Harvey Keitel. But her best performance came with her role as naive porn-star Linda Ash/Judy Cum in Woody Allen's comedy Mighty Aphrodite that earned her a Golden Globe and an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress in 1995. Besides roles - often as dumb blondes - in romantic films, she played in the science-fiction thriller Mimic and the action movie Replacement Killers. In her current thriller Summer of Sam she stars as an Italian-American housewife.
 
Her filmography: Amongst Friends, Quiz Show, Parallel Lives, Barcelona,  Tarantella, Sweet Nothing, The Dutch Master, Blue in the Face, The Buccaneers, New York Cop, Mighty Aphrodite, Jake's Women, Beautiful Girls, Norma Jean and Marilyn, Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion, Mimic, Too Young to Die, Lulu on the Bridge, The Replacement Killers, At First Sight, Summer of Sam.
 
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
 
Lenny Weinrib's wife Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) wants to adopt a child. She is about to open a new gallery and therefore does not have the time to take a year off. First, sportsjournalist Lenny (Woody Allen) is against it for the same reason he does not want to lease a car: pride of ownership. But in the end, he gives in. Years pass and the child is a bright student leading Lenny to believe that the boy's real mother must be a genius. A funny moment comes when the son asks Lenny whether he or his mother Amanda is the boss. Lenny: "I'm the boss, she's only the decision maker." Curiosity and dissatisfaction with his marriage to the neurotic, self-absorbed Amanda push Lenny to search for the biological mother.
 
The ancient Greeks tell Lenny to "let sleeping dogs die". But he is stubborn, defeats a series of obstacles and finally finds the mother. But Linda Ash is not the woman he had expected. She is a prostitute and p... star under the name of Judy Cum. As they first meet, Lenny is so astonished that he asks her three times if she is Linda Ash. That leads her to the question whether he is "a stroke victim or something?" On his question about her acting career she asks him: "Did you see The Enchanted Pu...?" Her natural innocence is breathtaking. Lenny gets angy as she accepts a phone offer by a female colleague for a part in another p... movie. Lenny: "How do these s.. movies bring you closer to Broadway?" She gets mad at him, too. Linda does not like possessive men. He comes in and tells her what to do. Linda does not want any advice, gives him a "refund" and tells him to "Get out!"
 
The Greeks tell him once more not to go any further. But finally, Lenny manages to get in contact with her again and they even become platonic friends. One day, she admits that she regrets giving away the baby which came "to planet earth thanks to a broken condom". All this inspires Lenny to help her find a husband and make a fresh start. He does it for his son Max. His biological mother should be rather a hairdresser and married than the star of "The Enchanted Pu...". But his methods and choices lead to more trouble since he is "trying to play god", as the Greeks say. Among the problems are her pimp and a dumb boxer Lenny choses as her boyfriend. At the same time, Lenny's wife starts an affair ...
 
Woody Allen asked Mira Sorvino to create a voice for Linda but did not tell her how. She just had to sound stupid. So Mira chose the high-pitched dumb sounding voice that became so important for the movie's success. She did not want Linda to be too sexy and too successful as a s.. worker, but innocent, natural and stupid - in contrast to her own preconception of the porn world as dark and sleazy. Mira got the idea from a discussion with a p... star who had been a school teacher before and who related in a natural way that she was happy with her new job. With Linda as a happy and natural whore who is not ashamed of her career, the character of Linda became very funny. Mighty Aphrodite is not only one of the best Woody Allen film's but one of the best comedies in recent years.
 
In an interview, Mira Sorvino said that she didn't believe in fate: "You create your own destiny." But Allen's idea to introduce an ancient Greek choir into the movie was a clever and (for the most part) funny way to tell the story. Mighty Aphrodite was shot in ten weeks in locations in Manhattan, the Upper East Side and elsewhere in New York City. For the Greek choir, the set was the Teatro Greco in Italy's Taormina. Woody Allen became acquainted with the place years ago when he presented Bananas there at a filmfestival. Get Mighty Aphrodite on DVD from Amazon.com
 
The Replacement Killers (1998)
 
Chinese immigrant John Lee (Chow Yun-Fat: Hard Boiled and The Killer are just two of his over 70 films; his latest: Anna and the King, together with Jodie Foster) is an efficient professional killer. In a showdown, police detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker: Tulsa and Cliffhanger) had killed the son of a Chinese mafia boss. This man, Mister Wei, seeks revenge and wants an outsider to kill Zedkov's seven year old son in such a way that he dies in the arms of his father. The boss asks Lee to do this last job in exchange for the future safe passage of Lee's family from China to America. But Lee, in the last second, has scruples and refuses to pull the trigger of his rifle which is aimed at the son playing with his father. Now, he himself together with his mother and sister are in mortal danger, too. He needs forged documents. A friend tells him to go to Meg Coburn (Mira Sorvino). A shooting starts in her office, but John and Meg manage to escape. By helping Lee, she becomes an unwitting target herself. She gets arrested by police, does not cooperate but gets released: now she is red meat. A race against time starts as the Replacement Killers (one of the two is played by German star Till Schweiger) arrive at the airport. The movie's title is a bad choice since the central figures John Lee and Meg Coburn are not the replacement killers (these two guys have only a minor role in the film).
 
The Replacement Killers is African-American Antoine Fuqua's first movie. He has become famous with his clip for Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise that won him an MTV Video Music Award. Fuqua is a fan of John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killers and Face/Off) who is not only the executive producer but who also "brought" with him his favourite actor Chow Yun-Fat. Although the film was not a huge success, its images have an undeniably aestethic quality and Fuqua may have a bright future in front of him. There are some good scenes like "I wanna know what the hell is going on" where action and emotions come together. Unfortunately, The Replacement Killers is too much an action movie that lacks the capacity to engage movie goers emotionally. The best scenes are in the beginning. As the story unfolds, there is too much action and no humor. Get theThe Replacement Killers on DVD from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk
 
At First Sight (1999)
 
New York City architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) drives to a winter resort in order to relax from her daily work. At night, approaching the town, she can see a lonely ice-skater on a pond. The next day, she gets a massage by Virgil (a reference to Roman poet Virgil? - Val Kilmer) which relieves her and makes her cry. That happens often, he says. Ashamed, Amy apologizes to him as he tries to catch the bus. Only now, she realizes that he is blind and apologizes again. This is the beginning of a romantic affair. Virgil teaches Amy to use all her senses again and fills the emotional hole left by her unsensitive business partner and former husband who thinks he deserves a second chance. As her former husband hears about the still platonic affair, he says: "I know you love challenges, you've married me." In her eyes, he has "the emotional content of a soap dish", as she confesses to a friend at her office.
 
An article in Virgil's room on a new method to regain sight makes Amy convince Virgil to undergo experimental surgery that will allow him to see again. First, he is reluctant. As a child, he had suffered traumatic experiences from empty promises in this direction. His father had played a negative role by pushing him and afterwards letting him down. Virgil's mother had died young. Furthermore, his father had abandoned the family and left Virgil's education to his elderly sister (Kelly McGillis).
 
In the end, Virgil finds the courage to give it a try and goes with Amy to New York City. He is lucky and the cataract surgery is a success although, in the beginning, he has trouble understanding the frightening world he has to learn to see like a child. The first thing he discovers is a Coke. Not a very intelligent product placement, especially given the fact that At First Sight is no romantic comedy. There is no humor involved that would break the seriousness of the moment. Virgil has a total lack of visual memory. Dramatic moments lie ahead of the two - also for other reasons.
 
At First Sight is based upon a true story documented by Oliver Sacks, the renowned physician and author of Awakenings. Director Irwin Winkler (The Net) was not able to create a blockbuster movie. His way to treat the subject was too serious. The absence of commercial success is not necessarily synonymous with a good movie. In the case of At First Sight, its absence is no sign of great quality, either. But in the beginning, it is a touching, sensitive and quiet movie. Val Kilmer is convincing as a blind man and Mira Sorvino is always at her best when she can use her innocent and cute smile. After Virgil moves to N.Y.C., the characters become more distant and movie goers are less attached to them. Some details are less convincing, too. In their love scenes, Mira shows no passion and seems even embarrassed. Last, in their ice-scating scene, one gets the impression that in fact Amy is the better skater. Overall, At First Sight is above average but not great. Get At First Sight on DVD from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.
 
Summer of Sam (1999)
 
Mira Sorvino's latest appearance is in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam - a film based on the 1977 New York City random serial killings of brunettes by David Berkowitz that created terror and paranoia especially among women in the Big Apple and that got a lot of tabloid and other media attention. The movie's title comes from the fact that Berkowitz called himself "Son of Sam". In Lee's first film with a mostly white cast, Mira Sorvino plays a fictional Italian-American housewife in the Bronx. As soon as the film is released in Switzerland. [April 7, 2002: check our review of Summer of Sam].

 
 

 
 

 
 
 
 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 2, January 1999
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  All Previous Articles
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Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.