I took my time getting to this one, as it’s probably Woody’s most famous film and therefor has already been reviewed and written about by hundreds of writers who are better than me. Co-written with Marshall Brickman, Woody directed this film in 1977, in which he plays Alvy Singer. Alvy is essentially Woody Allen, or at least an exaggerated version of Allen, and is pretty much the template for the “Woody Allen” persona that he plays in all his future films. When someone does a Woody Allen impression, they’re really doing Alvy Singer. Alvy is neurotic, speaks quickly, prone to one-liners, and overly obsseded with matters both morbid and trivial.
Throughout the film we get flashbacks into Alvy’s life, he started out as a comedy writer for other comedians, before eventually gaining the confidence to go on stag and perform his own material, becoming a very successful comedian on his own. As the film begins he’s a writer on a successful TV show, although halfway through the film he quits in disgust at how shallow the show is. But then he immediately begins regretting his decision and worry about his future. But the biggest change in Alvy’s life is when he meets Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), during a doubles-tennis match with a couple of his friends. She has her own set of neurosis and odd behavior and the two hit it off instantly and begin dating.
Eventually they break up and Alvy tries dating other people, but rushes back to Annie when she calls him one night, and they reconcile. However, Annie is an aspiring singer and when she meets a record producer who offers her a deal, she and Alvy break up and she moves to Los Angeles. Alvy panics and flies to L.A. to propose to Annie. But, in a complete break from movie conventions, Annie does not accept his proposal, and Alvy goes back to New York alone (where he promptly writes a play based on he and Annie’s relationship, where they do get back together in the end).
They thing that makes this film work is the undeniable chemistry between Woody and Diane, those two are perfect together on screen. The film is also memorably for it’s many quirks. There’s an infamous scene early on where Alvy and Annie are talking to each other, just making random small talk, but we see subtitles on screen that show what they’re really thinking. There’s a flashback where adult Alvy interacts with his elementary school self and his classmates, and then several of the kids stands up to announce how they turn out as adults (with statements like “I’m into leather”.). In one scene Alvy and Annie are standing in line and Alvy gets into an argument with a man standing behind them about the works of a famous philosopher and to prove he is correct Alvy just pulls that philosopher from behind a screen and has him berate the man, and Alvy turns to “us”, the audience, and says “Don’t you wish you could do this in real life?” The dialog is also the brilliant, as it’s full of one-liners. Like the classic “Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.” And the whole sequence of Woody in Los Angeles, trying to adapt to the L.A. lifestyle, including driving, is hilarious.
All in all this is a great film that deserves all the accolades it has received. FIVE STARS
Categories: WOODY ALLEN FILMS