Annie Hall (1977)
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Shelly Duvall, Carol Kane, Paul Simon
Plot: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Awards: Won 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay. Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Leading Actor
Rating: PG for sexual references and crude humor.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Honey, there's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick.”
This was the movie that Star Wars (1977) lost the Best Picture Oscar to in 1978. But it lost to a great film, not necessarily Woody Allen’s greatest, even if most critics consider it his magnum opus. I’m convinced that films like Manhattan (1979) operate at a cinematic level even higher and deeper than that of Annie Hall.
Still, Annie Hall would go down into the history books as the film that finally sees Allen arrive on the big stage as a writer-director with one of the most unique voices in American cinema, and undoubtedly after four decades in the game, the most consistent one.
Allen also stars with Diane Keaton who plays his love partner. They give wonderful performances as a sort-of-dysfunctional couple who finds that being committed to each other far exceeds the effort that they are willing to give.
It is a love story between two lovers who try but give up. Perhaps giving up is too negative an impression for these two charming, sometimes socially inept folks. They simply stop and move forward, absolve of the related guilt but not of the memory of the good times. What Annie Hall does is provide 90 minutes of brilliant writing that rewards viewers with intelligent insights paired with devastating humour that somehow illuminate the joys and perils of couplehood.
In essence, the film is a mature romantic-comedy with a rich and strong neurotic catch, so typical of Allen’s senses and sensibilities. He also breaks the fourth wall in a number of occasions (e.g. he brings out the real Marshall McLuhan to make a point; he also asks us to side with him or his arguments). It is a cheeky film, aware of its mode of address, but more critically, aware of how it addresses common themes in new ways.
Annie Hall remains fresh even if it somewhat barely survives its age. In some way, it is an evergreen movie, but you can tell it is slowly aging. Films like Casablanca (1942) are also evergreen, but they have aged well. Or maybe they don’t age at all.
Woody Allen’s mastery of his craft, an art that he has ingeniously created for himself and his faithful audiences for the longest of time, is admirable in so many ways. Annie Hall is his coming-of-age movie, his first defining milestone. I think it is best to sum it up this way: Keaton plays Annie Hall, Woody is Annie Hall.
Verdict: Often regarded as his magnum opus, this is top-tier Woody Allen operating at the height of his powers.
GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)
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