Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
Year 1, Day 211
BEFORE: There’s just a handful of days left in Oscar month and just in time for the end, I’m watching my first Woody Allen film, ever. Annie Hall will have the honors of being my first of Allen’s many films and is also widely regarded as one of his best. The film won four out of its five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Diane Keaton), and Best Original Screenplay; it lost Best Actor (Woody Allen).
AFTER: Annie Hall has more than a few question marks in terms of how the story is told. It opens with Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) doing a standup bit and throughout the movie there are many times where he breaks the fourth wall and even one scene where subtitles explain what’s actually going through Alvy and Annie Hall’s (Diane Keaton) mind. I’ll get more into this in a bit but no matter the criticisms I have about this film, it can’t be denied that I was laughing hysterically for large portions and found the film incredibly amusing.
Woody Allen is one of the big names in cinema and whether you’ve seen his films, or haven’t - like me - chances are you know something about him. I know he’s a very prolific filmmaker and has released one (sometimes two) films per year since 1982 and he is supposed to play a very specific character with a very specific type of humor. Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated Allen’s humor and style. I just got him, partially because I’m like that and partially because it’s just a funny character. Alvy has lots of one liners and acts very much like a comedian wherever he is, always trying to get a joke across. But Alvy is also very opinionated and reserved at the same time. The best example, and one of my favorite scenes in the film, is when Alvy and Annie are standing in (on) line to see a movie and there’s an annoying guy behind them espousing pointless and downright false bits of information. Meanwhile, Alvy is having his own conversation with Annie and keeps sidetracking to complain about the annoying guy while still not confronting him directly (he does confront him later but that’s a dream-like sequence).
Besides the writing and the style of humor in Annie Hall another major aspect of the film is the structure. As I said before, there’s a lot of breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly in various ways (looking at the camera, subtitles, opening scene). For the most part I enjoyed this and thought it added to Allen’s sense of humor. Going back the theater scene again, the jokes and actions were funny enough but when Alvy pulls the guy out of the line and introduces him to the guy he was talking about, it takes the absurdity to a whole new level and delivers a final blow. There is a downside to this however, and that there is a lack of clarity. The scenes were funny in the moment but when you start going from scene to scene and seeing the story progress it just seems piecemeal. And I thought about whether that’s what Allen was going for - showing snapshots/snippets of this relationship - and if that is his goal (which it probably is), I think it missed the mark. I started to lose my sense of time and place and each scene just seemed to blur in to the next with no sense of progression or development. So in other words, some good and some bad from this style.
If Annie Hall did one thing it got me extremely excited to see more of Woody Allen’s work. Roger Ebert does say that Annie Hall is, “just about everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie,” so maybe it will go downhill from here. But the characters and the writing and the laughs I got out of this film left me in an incredibly good mood. I can’t speak to how well it compares to his others, but from my perspectiveAnnie Hall would be a good choice as your first Woody Allen film and I would highly recommend seeing a Woody Allen film.
RATING: 4 out of 5