A Greek chorus narrates and comments—and Oedipus, Jocasta, Tiresias, and Cassandra sometimes directly intervene—in this modern fable. Sportswriter Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) is married to the career-driven Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter), who wants a baby but because she cannot afford to get pregnant due to her job, she says that they will adopt. Lenny is opposed to this, but Amanda always has her way, so they adopt a baby boy, whom they name Max. As Max, it becomes clear he is highly intelligent. Lenny becomes obsessed with learning the identity of Max's biological parents. After great difficulty, Lenny finally locates Max's mother: prostitute and part-time porn star Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino).
Lenny makes an "appointment" with her. At first, Linda appears to be a dumb blonde with a crude sense of humor, along with delusions of becoming an actress. Lenny does not sleep with her and urges her to stop being a prostitute, but Linda becomes furious and throws him out. It takes a while for Lenny to befriend Linda. Then he begins her lifestyle makeover. Lenny also tricks her into telling him about the child she gave up for adoption. He persuades Linda to quit her profession and even bribes her violent pimp with basketball tickets to let Linda go. Lenny then sets Linda up with a boxer-turned-onion farmer Kevin (Michael Rapaport). It appears to be a perfect match, until Kevin discovers Linda's background and leaves her.
Meanwhile, Amanda is having an affair with her colleague Jerry (Peter Weller), and Lenny finds out about it. Lenny and Linda console one another and sleep together. Lenny then reconciles with a guilt-ridden Amanda, realizing that they are still in love. Linda makes one last attempt to win back farm boy Kevin, but as she drives back to the city, a helicopter drops out of the sky. Linda gives the pilot Don a lift and, before long, they end up getting married. The twist is that Linda is pregnant with Lenny's child. A year later, Lenny and Linda, with their individual children, meet in a toy store. They have each other's child, but they do not know it.
- Woody Allen as Lenny Weinrib
- Helena Bonham Carter as Amanda Sloan Weinrib
- Mira Sorvino as Linda Ash
- Michael Rapaport as Kevin
- F. Murray Abraham as Greek Chorus Leader
- Olympia Dukakis as Jocasta
- David Ogden Stiers as Laius
- Jack Warden as Tiresias
- Danielle Ferland as Cassandra
- Peter Weller as Jerry Bender
- Claire Bloom as Mrs. Sloan
Dick Hyman served as the film's music coordinator, arranger, and conductor. The soundtrack includes "Neo Minore" performed by Vassilis Tsitsanis, "Horos Tou Sakena" by Stavros Xarchakos, "I've Found a New Baby" by Wilbur de Paris, "Whispering" by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, "Manhattan" by Carmen Cavallaro, "When Your Lover Has Gone" by Ambrose & His Orchestra, "L'il Darlin" by Count Basie & His Orchestra, "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Penthouse Serenade (When We're Alone)" and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" by Erroll Garner, "The In Crowd" by Ramsey Lewis, and "You Do Something to Me" and "When You're Smiling" by the Dick Hyman Chorus & Orchestra. Graciela Daniele choreographed the dance routines.
The Greek chorus includes George de la Peña and Pamela Blair. Tony Sirico and Paul Giamatti make brief appearances in minor roles.
Manhattan locations include Bowling Green, Central Park, and FAO Schwarz. Additional exteriors were filmed in North Tarrytown and Quogue. The Greek chorus scenes were filmed in the Teatro Greco in Taormina on the island of Sicily.
Mira Sorvino mentioned in a 2011 interview that she chose Linda's voice to be high and gravelly since "high voice kind of makes you sound less intellectually gifted, and the gravelly part just added this kind of rough-and-tumble, been-to-the-school-of-hard-knocks element to it." Four weeks into the production, Allen spoke with Sorvino asking if she had ever wondered about using a different voice. Sorvino stated that the voice affected how she approcahed the character, and that if she changed the voice the character changed. She pointed out that they were four weeks into the movie, Allen said "Oh, that doesn’t matter. I have it written into my budget that I can reshoot the entire movie if I want."
The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival before going into limited release in the US. It opened on 19 screens and earned $326,494 its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $6,401,297 in the US and $19,598,703 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $26,000,000.
In her review in The New York Times, Janet Maslin said, "Even when it becomes unmistakably lightweight, Mighty Aphrodite remains witty, agile and handsomely made."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "a sunny comedy" and added, "The movie's closing scene is quietly, sweetly ironic, and the whole movie skirts the pitfalls of cynicism and becomes something the Greeks could never quite manage, a potential tragedy with a happy ending."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Leah Garchik said the film was "an inventive movie, imaginative and rich in detail" and added, "Woody Allen's incredible wit is at the heart of all that's wonderful in Mighty Aphrodite, and Woody Allen's incredible ego is at the core of its major flaw . . . He fails when he attempts . . . to get the audience to suspend its disbelief and accept Allen, a withered Romeo, as a sweet-natured naif. The crotchety charm of the shy and awkward characters he played as a young man has worn off; nowadays, he comes across as just plain crotchety."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "The film is a showcase for Sorvino, actor Paul's Harvard-grad daughter, who gives a sensational performance. She shows startling humor and heart without trading on sentiment."
In Variety, Todd McCarthy described the film as "a zippy, frothy confection that emerges as agreeable middle-range Woody . . . There is perhaps a bit too much of the chorus galavanting about delivering their increasingly colloquial admonitions and too few convulsive laughs, but the writer-director has generally pitched the humor at a pleasing and relatively consistent level . . . The film's biggest surprise, and attraction, is Sorvino . . . [who] goes way beyond the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold externals of the part in developing a deeply sympathetic and appealing character. None of the diverse roles she has done to date would have suggested her for this part, but this gutsy performance will put her much more prominently on the map."
Awards and nominations
|Academy Award||Best Original Screenplay||Mighty Aphrodite||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Mira Sorvino||Won|
|Golden Globe||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|National Board of Review Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Chlotrudis Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Southeastern Film Critics Association Award||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|BAFTA Award||Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America Award||Best Original Screenplay||Mighty Aphrodite||Nominated|
|Nastro d'Argento Silver Ribbon||Best Cinematography||Carlo Di Palma||Won|
|Butaca Award||Best Art House Film||Mighty Aphrodite||Won|
|American Choreography Award||Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film||Graciela Daniele||Won|
- Mighty Aphrodite at Box Office Mojo
- Mighty Aphrodite at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mighty Aphrodite at Metacritic
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