This file was generated 2002-10-20 15:36 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2002-10-15.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> August 2002 >> Annie Hall
The Woody Allen I remember from my childhood is the slapstick of Sleeper. Since then, I've seen his dramatic side in Interiors, the fond rememberance side in Radio Days, and more slapstick in Bananas and Love and Death. Overwhelmingly, it's been very good, but Annie Hall is in a class by itself. This is possibly Allen's most audacious romantic comedy because it doesn't rely on a crazy setting for most of its humor. I suppose it's possible to consider New York City a crazy setting, but I don't see it played that way. Allen makes his life in the city funny, but the laughs come mostly from the relationship. As good as this material is, it's enhanced by visual flights of fancy and clever editing. There's a particularly good scene with Annie and Alvy talking to their psychiatrists on opposite sides of a split screen. They're in total agreement on the facts, but they couldn't be more different in their interpretation of those facts. I also enjoyed the variety of ways we see just how self- centered Alvy is. When he's walking down the street, he engages pedestrians in conversations without any regard for how strange their questions would seem to anyone else. In one particularly brilliant stretch, each non-Alvy line in a dialogue is handled by a different extra. The whole world really does revolve around him in a scene like this! Allen's screen persona rarely evokes words like "bold", but this approach was probably considered quite risky at the time.
Annie Hall is quite episodic. It's almost like sketch comedy in the way it blends so many different elements together. We get stand-up comedy appearances, flashbacks to two ex-wives, and the meet-the- parents vignette that may have inspired Ben Stiller to do Meet the Parents. Late in the movie, when most such films have left their comic beginnings behind in favor of going for high drama, Annie Hall gets a second wind with a trip to Los Angeles. The East Coast vs. West Coast culture clash is funny in its own right, but it's cut with the relationship drama, too. This is so refreshingly different from the standard approach that even though Alvy is crashing and burning, the movie doesn't become dull.