My Father's Original 'Annie Hall' Review from 1977
In March I posted my father's original “Star Wars” review from 1977, and in May, on the 40th anniversary of its release, the Minneapolis Star Tribune did the same. Then they got him to write a follow-up. Had he changed his mind? Of course not. And to be honest, his review is pretty spot-on. “Leave your brain at home.” Moviegoers have been doing that ever since.
The 1977 movie he preferred to “Star Wars” was this one. He was right about that, too. No follow-up necessary.
At the Movies
May 15, 1977
If you’ve held off from seeing Woody Allen’s latest film, “Annie Hall, because of reports that it’s his first “serious comedy,” disabuse yourself of the notion at once. If “Annie Hall” is different from Allen’s previous movies, it’s only in being more personal, more autobiographical.
But its subject matter—Jewish boy meets goy girl, loses girl—is no more serious than, say, the Russian novel or a bank robbery. And the one-liners still fly thick and fast, particularly in the first half of the film.
I think it’s his funniest film yet, and his best, but I’ve thought that about his last three, which suggests either that his grasp of the medium keeps getting more controlled as he gets older or, more likely, that the last joke you heard is always the funniest, because it’s still fresh.
The film, especially considering the title, comes off mainly as a protracted valentine to Diane Keaton, his frequent costar and the actress with whom he once lived, just as Alvy Singer, the hero of the film, lives with Annie.
The strength of “Annie” comes from the unlikely liaison between the two, this woman who says things like “la-di-da” and “neat” and the comedian who says, “My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy being raped by Cossacks.”
The contrast in lifestyles culminates in a family dinner at the Hall (Keaton) household in Chippewa Falls, Wis., at which Singer-Allen feels so much the outsider that he imagines himself bearded and garbed like a Hasid.
Allen develops his themes in a variety of ways, not all of them successful: time warps in which the current Allen looks at his childhood, subtitles that contrast people’s thoughts with what they say (I thought that went out with “Strange Interlude”), split screens showing both he Singer and Hall families at the dinner table, speeches to the audience.
There are lots of interesting casting assignments, too, and again some of them misfire. Paul Simon works out well as a rock artist attracted to Miss Keaton, and Tony Roberts gets to listen to Woody’s paranoia as if this were a remake of “Play It Again, Sam.”
If Allen wanted the epitome of Waspiness for Annie’s mother, however, he certainly shouldn’t have chosen Colleen Dewhurst, who is as Irish-looking as the Blarney stone.
After making love to Miss Keaton, Allen describes sex as “the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.” Well, his films—and those marvelous essays of his in the New Yorker—are some of the most fun I’ve ever had with laughing.
He’s a national treasure, and if he wants to make more “serious” films such as this, fine. But not too often. My ribs need time to heal.