#43 – Annie Hall
Woody Allen. Although many moviegoers might still prefer his “earlier, funnier films” (as he himself referred to them in Stardust Memories) Annie Hall is the Papal Line of Demarcation when it comes to film comedy. There exist all comedies made before Annie Hall and all of those made after. It’s that important a film.
The Plot In Brief: Stand-up comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) reviews his life in an attempt to figure out what went wrong with his recent relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The audience is treated to a parade of scenes from Singer’s life, but always through the lens of his relationship with Annie.
What a smart move on the parts of both Allen and Rosenblum: the process yielded a relatable film that isn’t just a disjointed series of gags. One could argue that Allen’s whole career is marked by a movement towards a more mature, naturalistic storytelling (Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Midnight in Paris) and away from the semi-random series of jokes around a theme (Take the Money and Run, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex, and Bananas). Annie Hall certainly has jokes—some of the funniest in Allen’s career—but here they are made to serve a cohesive narrative that also has some trenchant things to say about adult relationships.
In short, Annie Hall made me feel like an adult; it started me thinking like an adult about adult things—jobs, and life, and love. Annie Hall also made me laugh… a lot.
Let’s face it—very few comedies are adult. It’s no wonder film critics and the Oscars often consider comedy to be “kid stuff.” With the exception of black comedies like The Apartment and Dr. Strangelove, comedies often dwell on the mindless and the silly. I am not talking about the skills required to create successful comedies; I agree with the old maxim that “comedy is hard.” I am suggesting that the stuff of comedy is generally immature and almost childish, and it is the (increasingly) rare comedy that can make us laugh and make us think… about something other than flatulence or falling down.
Certainly Annie’s unique fashion sense was based on Keaton’s own (and may be the one aspect of the film that dates it) and Allen and Keaton had dated in real life, but nothing in Keaton’s previous films (not even her previous films with Allen) revealed her to be such an effortless, gifted comedian. We get hints of this later Keaton in Play It Again, Sam and Sleeper, but her performance in Annie Hall was a leap into the iconic and unforgettable. She sings nice too.
Annie Hall is one of the best comedies ever made, both tremendously funny and slyly profound. You may never know anyone exactly like Alvy or Annie, but they’re so relatable, they’ll break your heart a little. You’ll just be laughing so much you won’t mind.
"In nomine Patrici, et Scorsese, qui mecum est Jai Beaie, Amen.”