Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ha-Ha-Huh?: "Annie Hall" (1977)

Yep, this is it. The film that beat "Star Wars" for the Best Picture Oscar for the year 1977. After seeing all five Best Picture nominees (the others were "Julia," "The Goodbye Girl," and "The Turning Point") for that year, "Annie Hall" is the worst of them.

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) lives in New York and falls in love with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Their romance affects his friendships, his life, and his career as a comedian. Alvy begins looking for parallels between Annie and his two ex-wives, waiting to see what will go wrong here, as well. The couple never seem right for each other, as Annie comes into her own.

While Allen can certainly write and direct a film, his screenplay here is a disappointment. Allen jumps back and forth in time, but without a reason. Maybe the flash and whistles were to cover the fact that the basic romance between Annie and Alvy is as compelling as watching paint dry. I did not care about these two people because Allen did not give me any reason to. The cast is certainly funny and charming, but that is a credit to the actors more than the material.

The film plays like a series of Allen's best ideas, full of gut wrenching laughs. Come on, his grandmother never gave him anything because she was too busy getting raped by the Cossacks? Annie's family's reaction to the Jewish Alvy is also classic. The film is full of "classic moments" that are wonderful when taken separately, but fail in the overall feel of the film (my identical reaction to "There's Something About Mary.") I kept getting this odd feeling that "Annie Hall" was trying to deceive me, like a bait and switch. You go in expecting at least a classic romantic comedy, instead you get the comedy and no desire to see these two people together in the end.

"Annie Hall" is one of the more average films in the Woody Allen filmography. You can spot themes that he will revisit time and time again. My two favorite films of his are "Manhattan" and "Radio Days." My two least favorite films of his are "September" and "Alice." "Annie Hall" falls right in the middle- simply average. (* * *) out of five stars.