This 1991 film is my favorite Woody Allen movie that isn’t actually a “Woody Allen Movie”. By that I mean that Woody is strictly an actor in this film, he didn’t write or direct it himself, which is very rare for him. It’s even set in Los Angeles, the polar opposite of Woody’s typical New York settings. Part of the reason I love it is that it is set in the Beverly Center, a mall that I used to hang out in during the weekends when I was a teenager, so it was cool to see all the recognizable stores and other landmarks during the film.
Produced and directed by Paul Mazursky, who co-wrote the film with Roger L. Simon (& has a cameo in the film), Woody Allen co-stars with Bette Midler, who play Nick and Deborah Fifer, a seemingly happy couple who are preparing to celebrate their 16th anniversary. Nick is a successful Sports attorney, and Deborah is a psychiatrist and best-selling author, who has written a book about how to have a successful marriage. So they’re wealthy, with a large house with plenty of material things, like fancy cars and separate phones (again, this is in 1991, before cell phones), and two teenage children who are only briefly seen in the beginning as they go off on vacation.
Nick and Deborah go to the mall to do some shopping, and it there that Nick is inexplicably overcome with guilt and feels the need to confess to Deborah that he had been having an affair (with a woman named “Ed”, short for “Edwina”), but that he ended it the day before. He also confesses to three other one-night stands. He initially feels good about getting this off his chest but Deborah blows up at him and plans to get a divorce. Nick pleads with her to forgive him, and just when she finally calms down, she then reveals that she also had an affair, with a fellow psychiatrist, but things it’s good that they’ve got this out in the open because now they can both start over. Except the knowledge of his wife’s affair now leads Nick to want a divorce. And they continue to argue, make up and break up again, before finally reconciling.
That’s it. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting just based on that summary, but I swear that it works. It’s like a classic episode of SEINFELD, the “show about nothing”. Like when the group were stranded in a mall parking lot, or when they were stuck waiting in line at a chines restaurant, or when the entire episode was them at a car dealership. It’s not the action that makes the film, it’s the dialog. The interaction between Woody and Bette. The film pretty much fall all on their shoulders and they make it work, thanks to their comedic timing and onscreen chemistry. They’re on the screen together for almost the entire hour and a half that makes up this film, and they keep you entertained the entire the time, whether they’re getting drunk together as they negotiate divorce terms and contemplate which one of their friends each one of them will end up with next, or buying new clothes. If there could be said to be a third co-star in this film, it would have to be Bill Irwin, who plays mime who keeps popping up randomly, until finally driving Nick into a violent rage. It’s funny stuff.
This film isn’t considered a hit, but I checked and it made over nine million on a three million dollar budget, so that’s triple it’s budget. I’d call that a success, and I recommend it. FOUR STARS
Categories: WOODY ALLEN FILMS