Annie Hall (1977)
Release Date: April 20th, 1977 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Woody Allen Actors: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Janet Margolin
imple in story, complex in construction, and unquestionably innovative in style for 1977, “Annie Hall” is frequently considered writer/director Woody Allen’s finest work. It’s a delightfully sweet romance, carefully positioned amongst extreme pessimism, neurotic behaviors, and intelligently caustic dialogue, balancing itself so perfectly as to never become dour or bitter. It’s also a masterpiece of comic timing, bubbling over with jokes while delving into the anxieties, complications, sexual and emotional exasperations, and ultimately desirable or comforting necessities of human relationships.
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen, in an inescapably autobiographical role) doesn’t consider himself to be a morose type and definitely not depressive. But nearly every conversation he engages in is saturated with sarcasm, cynicism, and despair. He has an opinion or commentary to impart on every little event, hysterically negative theories on life (including the belief in only two kinds of people – miserable and horrible), and an odd obsession with death. He’s also a relatively successful New York comedian who struggles to find a meaningful relationship – until his manager introduces him to Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).
Annie is a ditsy, sometimes capricious, generally insecure, curiously dressed woman who seems to be the perfect match for Singer. She’s a would-be nightclub singer who immediately falls for the lugubrious comic, delivering her famous “la-dee-da” line and stumbling all over a weak flirtation routine. But Alvy is enamored nonetheless, and the two quickly fall in love, despite troubles arising from their persuasive analysts, his constant hostility toward just about everyone, an unreasonable amount of self-induced stress, and his indiscriminate inability to enjoy life itself. Oftentimes, he isn’t capable of taking their relationship seriously enough, as if he’s a mightier being unable to adequately communicate with the dimwitted woman he so dearly loves. It’s not until he’s lost her that he realizes how impossible it is to recreate the happiness he felt with her (regardless of its intermittent inconsistency) with anyone else.
“Annie Hall,” undoubtedly Allen’s most popular project, serves not only as a paradigmatic influence on countless comedies, but also as a precursor to the writing styles of Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, both of who use an excessive amount of dialogue to fuel their scripts. Some moments are also nearly reminiscent of a Marx Brothers’ skit, with long-winded monologues that halt counterblasts. Allen’s humor is entirely different, however, typically riding on extremely highbrow jokes that rarely resort to slapstick, interrogative audience queries, and a magnificently jumbled narrative, devoid of precise explanations. It’s up to viewers to follow the flashbacks, the jumping ahead in time, and the pure fantasy, some of which is presented in traditional animation, asides to the camera, or unremittingly meddlesome narration. And with a spectacular appearance by Christopher Walken (as well as numerous other recognizable actors in brief roles), carefully crafted character development, ceaselessly witty exchanges, and four Oscar wins (including Best Picture, Best Director for Allen, and Best Actress for Keaton), “Annie Hall” is a hopeful, sentimental, laugh-out-loud funny observation of love and loss and an unmissable movie experience that, as Alvy Singer would insist upon, must be seen from start to finish.
– Mike Massie