Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Review #1,142






THE SCOOP
Director:  Woody Allen
Cast:  Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen, Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fisher, Max von Sydow
Plot:  Between two Thanksgivings, Hannah's husband falls in love with her sister Lee, while her hypochondriac ex-husband rekindles his relationship with her sister Holly.

Genre:  Drama / Comedy
Awards:  Won 3 Oscars - Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay.  Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.
Runtime:  103min
Rating:  NC16 for some mature themes.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“How can you act when there's nothing inside to come out?”

Back in 1986, a group tried to advocate for Woody Allen's screenplay for Hannah and Her Sisters to be considered for the Pulitzer's Prize.  It's not difficult to see why.  This is one of Allen's genuine triumphs, in the league of Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979), even winning three Oscars, including one for Best Original Screenplay. 

It features an all-star ensemble cast, too many to be named, all of whom give their characters a distinctive edge.  Noteworthy mentions include the performances of Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, and Barbara Hershey.  Mia Farrow plays Hannah, a successful actress with a stable family and income; her sisters Lee (Hershey) and Holly (Wiest) are struggling to build their long-term career and find true romance. 

As we will see in between Thanksgiving dinners, a lot of things happen.  Then we also see flashbacks of things that happened at an earlier time.  I think it's best for you to discover how it all plays out, and I assure you that you will be very entertained.

Allen has been writing and directing, sometimes starring (including this one) for what seems like eternity, but Hannah and Her Sisters still (and will continue to) stand as a remarkable achievement, not just because of the performances, but also the strength of his writing and character development. 

The film is at once intimate yet expansive, exploring the troubles of marriage, sibling rivalry, and courtship as only the great master can draw with his unique artistry.  His is not an artistry of spellbinding visuals, but of spellbinding words.  Through the richness of his prose, we feel like we understand more about our relationships with our loved ones, even if we may not be that neurotic, or hypochondriatic for that matter. 

Fuelled by jazzy music, and in one sequence, we see some grand architectures of New York City, Hannah and Her Sisters puts us in the characters' setting – what joy to live amongst beauty, even if we don’t exist infinitely.  The film is hilarious, warm, and insightful, and if you are a big fan of Allen's works, this should not be missed.

Verdict:  Intimate yet expansive portrait of marriage, sibling relationships, and love as only Woody Allen can draw with his unique artistry.

GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)






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