Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Essentials- "Annie Hall" (1977)

The Essentials- #54

Annie Hall
I know I have always patted myself on the back for giving every genre a fair shake, and that is true. I hope I don't come off like I am conceited or that I have vast knowledge compared to everyone else. I do, however, like to demonstrate that I am fearless. One of the goals of this blog is to make as many of you film-lovers as fearless as I am. I will also admit that being a fearless moviegoer takes its toll and it is not always easy. One of the genres that continually lets me down more so than others is the romance genre. For the most part, those movies never get over their own cliches. It takes a very special mind to help me overcome the obstacles that plague the romance genre. I never once imagined that one of those people would be Woody Allen.

There have been bits of romance and love in most of Allen's films, but he tackles those ideas in much different ways than the average norm. Usual themes that appear in all of Allen's films are cheating and divorce, and that definitely does not end with "Annie Hall." But with "Annie Hall," Allen created a transcendent romantic comedy. He made something that was occasionally funny. He created something that was occasionally lubby-dubby. But Allen had some serious thoughts about the conventions of a genuine, real relationship with another person. He really captured the insecurities, the confusion, the arguments, the wonder and the sheer excitement of being in a relationship with somebody new. Even though Allen's approach to the material is quite funny at times, I think there is a geniune gloss of realism that is carefully etched into every scene, in every plotpoint, in every developing character. Allen's characters feel like real people, and besides a few slapstick moments, the movie feels like somebody documented a couple's relationship. That is the beauty and magic of "Annie Hall" and it becomes pretty clear why this is one of Allen's most precious moments.

I love the film's opening. I love that Alvie Singer, Woody Allen's character gives the audience his philosophy of life in a nutshell by a couple of jokes. Not only that, but Allen drops a major twist into the opening. Right away, we learn that this movie will not be the simple "forever after" story. Right away, we learn that this love story may or may not have a happy ending. Too many times in Hollywood, our romance movies are just that...romanticized. We get sold that a relationship is only rainbows and butterflies and once you find that one, special person you can relax and fate will step and take care of both of you forever. That is not how it works, that is not real life. I have been dating the same girl for a long time now, coming onto 5 years. I don't regret anything and I'd quickly relive all of it with her again, but there were many bumps along the way to get to where we are today and I am sure there will be more bumps in the future. That's life though, that is what happens when two different people co-exist in the same atmosphere. People in relationships have disagreements, different viewpoints, different ideas for the relationship. Anybody who tells you differently is whipped, or the person in the relationship with them is. Easily, the best thing about "Annie Hall" is that it tells a human story, about seemingly real people and tackle a subject worth tackling. 

The film's story is simple. "Annie Hall" is an odyssey between two people. What's interesting about the story is that it is told in NON-chronological order, yet we still get a cohesive story. Alvie Singer gives us a brief introduction, then we see how he was raised as a young man. Then the films veers us right in the middle of Annie and Alvie's relationship, they are haplessly in love and are discussing their past muses. Eventually, the films get back on a track that seems chronological. I don't want to make the film sound like its hard to follow, because its very easy sit through. There is just a fun game that Allen is playing, not only is the film a romantic comedy but its also a fun way to discuss memory and how that plays a serious role in remembering any relationship. 

The work by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton is flawless. I think out of all the women Woody Allen regularly worked with, it was his chemistry with Keaton that felt right every time. No matter what type of movie they were in, they always felt like real people. Allen and Keaton both had a knack for being incredibly funny and incredibly dramatic at the same time. Watching  these two actors interplay with each other is the best reason to see the movie. There are many great actors, including Paul Simon and Tony Roberts who show up in the film, but its Allen and Keaton that drive the whole thing. There story is the glue to the movie and they make it all worth while. (Also look for a cameo by Jeff Goldblum, in the first movie he ever made!)

The romantic comedy maybe sappy, and soapy sometimes. But that is what they are suppose to do and that's what they are meant for. Yet, its always refreshing to see a romantic comedy be real. Its refreshing for a romantic comedy to deviate from the cliched genre norms and dare to tell a story based on real life. This was a shining moment for Woody Allen and he created one of his best movies with "Annie Hall." Not only that but Keaton and Allen displayed some of their best acting with this movie. "Annie Hall" is full of surprises and it deserves to be checked out.

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