"Annie Hall" is a very good comedy about relationships,
from a realistic rather than romantic viewpoint. The
film has many quirky and original comic techniques,
all of which work. While not Allen's best film
("Manhattan" is even better), its strict focus on
relationships, its accessiblity, and its originality
make it his most popular.
Allen plays his usual character. He is a New Yorker,
Jewish, liberal, intellectual, talkative, slightly
neurotic, and involved in relationships. Carol Kane
and Shelly Duvall appear briefly as love interests,
but his primary target is Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).
Keaton is endearing as a goofy hedonist and whispering
Their romance is doomed by disparate interests.
Allen wants Keaton mostly for himself, while she has a
need for new experiences and new friendships. Tony
Roberts plays Allen's sarcastic friend, while Paul
Simon has a small role as a music producer. Christopher
Walken appears briefly as Keaton's spooky brother.
The film's enduring popularity is due to the clever
and witty script. "Annie Hall" is funny, regardless
of the audience's demographic. Keaton is also very
likable, much more so than Mia Farrow would be in
later Allen-directed films.
"Annie Hall" is not an outstanding film, however.
Early scenes take potshots at the working class,
mocking the future careers of his grade school
classmates, then making buffoons of blue collar
types who recognize Allen as a celebrity. Later
and more successful scenes belittle pseudo-intellectuals
and Hollywood dealmakers. Still, the film's point
seems to be that in the end, we are all selfish
and shallow. Allen may be correct in this, but
Keaton's free-style Annie belies his own conclusion.
"Annie Hall" focuses on Allen and not the title
character. While this is natural, it seems to be
asking the audience to take his side. It does help
that Allen is very funny, and Allen-the-actor is
given great lines by Allen-the-writer.
Allen gets away with risky, inventive techniques.
In a flashback as a kid, Allen appears by the teacher's
side, and takes a poll of his classmates' future
occupations. He becomes an animated character
to explore his relationship with the Wicked Queen
in "Snow White". He asks a handsome, happy couple
how they manage to stay together, and their remarkable
reply is that they are shallow. During an early
conversation between Allen and Keaton, subtitles show
what the characters are thinking about while one
desperately tries to present a appealing image
to the other. Allen frequently talks to the camera.
Keaton has an out-of-body experience while making love
with Allen. Keaton and Roberts play Ghost of Christmas
Past, appearing with Allen in one of his childhood
flashbacks. What is surprising is that these various
gags work, adding originality to what could otherwise
have been an entertaining but conventional film about
1977 was the year of the science fiction blockbusters
"Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".
Despite this, "Annie Hall" won Best Picture and Best
Director (Allen), while Keaton won Best Actress.
Allen (along with Marshall Brickman) also took the Oscar
for Best Original Screenplay, while Allen was nominated
for Best Actor.
Copyright © 1996 Brian Koller