Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 27, 2012)
When I was 10, my parents took me along to see 1977ís Annie Hall. Note that I didn't say "dragged me along," which is the attitude one might expect from a youngster. No, back then I was into media that seemed a bit beyond my age, and while I'd change my mind somewhat about him later, I really liked Woody Allen at that time.
More than 30 years later, I've watched Annie Hall again, and while I liked it, I have no idea what my 10-year-old self saw in the film. Did I get any of the jokes? I'm not sure how I could have. I mean, I knew a fair amount at that age, but I know that I lacked the sophistication to understand much of what was happening in this story.
Not to mention that I also did not yet have the "life experience" to take to heart the romantic aspect of the flick. Hey, I didn't even like girls yet at that age, though I was getting there. Annie is definitely a relationship film, so it works much better for one who has loved, especially if one has also lost.
That would be me, so I connected surprisingly well to Annie. As I alluded, I've soured some on Woody Allen over the last few decades and generally just find his persona to be irritating and largely unfunny. Actually, it's not so much that he doesn't produce good humor; it's just that something about Allen himself seems to rub me the wrong way. Tellingly, the two Allen films I've most enjoyed are Radio Days and Purple Rose of Cairo, both of which do not present Woody in a performing capacity.
In Annie Hall, we follow the life and loves of comedian Alvy Singer (Allen). Most of the flick concentrates on his relationships, with an emphasis on the ups and downs he experiences with Midwestern girl Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). We watch the pair as they go through their lives together.
Thatís not what youíd call a plot-driven film, so I struggled to compose a more detailed synopsis. I couldíve added other specifics, but they seemed irrelevant. The movieís about Annie and Alvy Ė thatís it, and anything else seems semi-irrelevant.
Even without much story, I like Annie Hall, as I find it to be surprisingly effective and well done. It's a very touching, sweet and funny exploration of male/female relationships, and also one that rings true.
I was also surprised at the quality of the acting. Allen essentially plays himself - as usual - so there's only so much he could do to muck it up; he doesn't and is perfectly acceptable - and maybe a little less annoying than usual. The big surprise comes from Diane Keaton. I usually can't stand her; from other appearances, I've seen her to be one of the stiffest and least convincing successful actresses in the business.
That isn't the case with her work in Annie. Keaton manages to portray Annie as a real person, no mean feat in what was a demanding role; she had to show her character in a wide variety of time periods and situations and she pulled it off admirably and convincingly. She won an Oscar for her work here, and she deserved it.
As good as Keaton is, my favorite performance in Annie comes from Jonathan Munk as a nine-year-old version of Alvy Singer, Allen's character. The kid's absolutely hilarious and we see far too little of him. (According to IMDB, Annie was Munk's only film. I hear he died after downing some Coca-Cola along with a packet of Pop Rocks. Or in ĎNam Ė Iím not sure.)
Annie Hall includes an amazingly strong supporting cast. None of them are terribly remarkable here - though they're all good - but it's an impressive roster. Annie features Carole Kane, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Glover, Shelley Hack, Beverly D'Angelo, and - in a shot from
so far away that the only way you'll know it's her is from the credits - Sigourney Weaver. Wow! Considering all of these folks were at best semi-unknowns at the time, that's pretty amazing.
But perhaps not as amazing as the fact that I really like this film. I don't expect I'll change my opinion of Woody Allen anytime soon - and I'll never forgive this movie for stealing the Best Picture Oscar Star Wars deserved - but I certainly have more respect for the man.