Zelig 1983

Zelig

Critics Consensus

Wryly amusing, technically impressive, and ultimately thought-provoking, Zelig represents Woody Allen in complete command of his craft.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 27

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 18,446
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Movie Info

In this fictional documentary, a man achieves notoriety for his ability to look and act like anyone he meets. With his unique talent for mimicry, Zelig (Woody Allen) ingratiates himself with people from every sector of society. His chameleon-like skill catches the eye of Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow), a doctor who thinks Zelig is in need of serious cognitive analysis. Their relationship moves in a direction that's not often covered in medical textbooks.

Cast & Crew

Woody Allen
Leonard Zelig
Mia Farrow
Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher
Marvin Chatinover
Glandular Diagnosis Doctor
Stanley Swerdlow
Mexican Food Doctor
Howard Erskine
Hypodermic Doctor
Michael Jeter
Freshman #2
Mary Louise Wilson
Ruth, Zelig's Half-sister
Alice Beardsley
Telephone Operator
Charles H. Joffe
Executive Producer
Michael Peyser
Associate Producer
Jack Rollins
Executive Producer
Dick Hyman
Original Music
Gordon Willis
Cinematographer
Susan E. Morse
Film Editor
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Critic Reviews for Zelig

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (27)

Audience Reviews for Zelig

  • Jun 01, 2014
    This mockumentary about a human chameleon who is able to change race, appearance, and professional demeanor at will is rather clever with the "archive footage," the smoooth 'n smarmy radio-voiced "narrator," and the "cameo interviews" with actual famous literati, but the movie tips on the tightrope of Woody Allen's slapstick inanity and Woody Allen's in-depth human analysis without ever transcending to the latter. I'm not one for blanket political correctness, but if you're gonna use blackface and slant-eyed make-up, you've gotta say something narratively relevant and not just treat it as a gag. There's so much social and cultural critique to be mined for both smart comedy and introspective pathos: people's prejudices toward different races, the knowledge of one's own race as the Other, the oftentimes unquestioned authority of those in respected professions, et cetera. The fictional Dr. Eudora Fletcher states that to the untrained observer, Zelig's faux-psychiatrist sounds realistic, but he's really just deploying cliched lingo. It would follow that Zelig adopts different stereotypical speech patterns for different races or classes, but all of this "research" is presented in silent "archive footage," not some tour de force bit of spoof acting like Robert Downey Jr.'s in "Tropic Thunder." Nothing changes within Woody or Zelig to actually BECOME or even inhabit another personality, which is sadly unsurprising since Woody Allen seems incapable of playing anyone other than Woody Allen. (And anyway, mimicking Dr. Fletcher is technically a plothole because Zelig's chameleonic power doesn't work with or on women.) Without grounding in what it actually means to "pass" as a different race, class, or other distinction, this lightweight premise and execution is almost as insulting as Woody's blind man bit in "Hollywood Ending."
    Alice S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 11, 2012
    One of the best films Woody Allen has ever made! I loved it
    Serge E Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2012
    This is Woody Allen's funny, offbeat, and really cleverly hilarious mockumentary about Leonard Zelig, the "human chameleon"- a man with a multiple personality disorder so bad, he compulsively transforms into anyone that he is near. The bulk of the film is shot in the style of 1920s/30s newsreels, and follows Leonard through history as he does everything from show up to batting practive with Babe Ruth, appear at the Vatican with Pope Pius and stand behind Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally. Basically, this film pioneered the same concept and special effects later used to great effect and acclaim by Robert Zemeckis with Forrest Gump. This film is a lot funnier, more clever, and more zany, though. Besides his antics with mimicking people and showing up at various historical events, Zelig becomes a celebrity in his own right, and, while being treated and cured by Dr. Eudora Fletcher, he falls in love. This is a brisk, funny, very sweet, and terrific film. I loved the ideas and the execution. At a running time of 80 somehting minutes though, this feels really slight and the style seems to overrun the substance. The film does get slightly beneath the surface though, so it's not all fluff. It's not one of Woody's best, but I'd put it near the top of his B-Sides.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2011
    My mind has now been blown by Woody Allen. I mean, I have always liked him. Yet, this film makes me feel as though I am only beginning to scratch the surface of Allen's creativity. The fact that this was made in the 80's only serves to impressive me even more. The special effects are incredibly well done and this film succeeded in looking like a collage of film stock from the 20's. The film may lose steam in the middle, but the impression is likely to stay with you forever. A wholly unique and mesmerizing experience.
    Reid V Super Reviewer

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