(director/writer: Woody Allen; screenwriter: Marshall Brickman; cinematographer: Gordon Willis; editor: Ralph Rosenblum; music: Isham Jones; cast: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Janet Margolin (Robin), Colleen Dewhurst (Mom Hall), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall), Donald Syminton (Dad Hall), Helen Ludlam (Grammy Hall), Shelley Duvall (Rolling Stone Correspondent); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Charles H. Joffe/Jack Rollins; United Artists; 1977)
“It’s a very funny film, playing with half-baked intellectual ideas, with Woody at the top of his verbal game.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A very funny but disjointed, freewheeling, and risk-taking structured Woody Allen urban romantic comedy, where the neurotic comedian is still not fully comfortable being a director as he is a stand-up comedian dishing out one-liners (it was his fifth film as a director, with Take The Money And Run his first such effort). It’s a film made up of running gags and most of the usual Woody self-obsessive hang-ups, existentialism, masturbation, anti-Semitism, references to Fellini and Bergman, coke-sniffing, psychoanalysis, and relationship chatter. He is playing his trademark Jewish neurotic New York City characterization of a hopeless schlep who is in an adventurous relationship with his equally neurotic Midwestern transplant, WASP, aspiring singer girlfriend Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Surprisingly it beat out Star Wars that year for Best Picture. It also won Best Director (Allen), Best Actress (Diane Keaton), and Best Original Screenplay (Allen and Marshall Brickman). It is interesting to note that this small picture grossed about $40 million–less than any other modern best picture winner. This film established Woody as a serious filmmaker and someone to be reckoned with.
Alvy works for TV in Manhattan as comedy writer, having just split up with his long-term lover Annie Hall. He now recalls their time together and adds to that by telling something about his childhood and his two failed marriages–with Allison (Carol Kane), who split up because of their disagreements about the second gun theory of the Kennedy assassination, and with Robin (Janet Margolin), someone who is frigid. Brought up in a tense Brooklyn household, in the shadow of the Coney Island roller-coaster, Alvy was always a loner and acted strange. Even as a child he was lusting after girls. He somehow makes use of his neurotic angst to rise as a successful comedian. One of the film’s classic set pieces is the first meeting between Annie and Alvy over a tennis match and afterwards their nervous verbal diarrhea conversation which goes back and forth as if they were still playing tennis. The clinging, unsure Annie manages to take Alvy back to her apartment in a near-death car journey where they obliviously chatter away about intellectual and philosophical things, however their real thoughts are shown in the subtitles as filled with lust. Their relationship advances when they move in together and Annie begins to grow while Alvy stagnates. She attends the same therapist he does and in one session makes more progress than he made in 15 years.
The film continued on in a series of Woody’s running commentaries, moving back and forth in time to cover the Manhattan scene, which is used as a backdrop, and Woody’s far-reaching ideas on romance. The sketches have a superb supporting cast to bolster them, including Paul Simon as a music mogul, who offers Annie a recording contract that she jumps at the chance and moves to Los Angeles; Shelley Duvall as both a wacky Rosicrucian and a Rolling Stone correspondent he has a brief fling with; Tony Roberts as an actor who is Woody’s best friend; Colleen Dewhurst as Annie’s uptight mother; and, Christopher Walken as Annie’s suicidal brother. The film contrasts Annie’s life growing up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, with her conservative parents and his more liberal upbringing in Brooklyn. Also, contrasting New York with Los Angeles lifestyles. It’s a very funny film, playing with half-baked intellectual ideas, with Woody at the top of his verbal game.
REVIEWED ON 3/30/2004 GRADE: B+