Title: Annie Hall
Release Date: 20 April, 1977
Oscar Ceremony: 3 April, 1978
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Nominees: The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, Turning Point
“Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat… college.” – Alvy Singer
I’ve considered myself a Woody Allen fan for a while. I can’t quite pinpoint the first film I saw by him, but I remember my parents watching a bunch. As a general rule, I’m more of a 2005-2012 fan, but I’ve jumped all over the place. This is not the first time I’ve watched Annie Hall. I know it’s what put Woody Allen on everyone’s radar, but for some reason, it didn’t resonate with me as much as I would have liked it to.
Woody Allen plays Alvy Singer, a New York comedian who recently broke up with his girlfriend, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The whole movie is about Alvy trying to make sense of their relationship while reflecting on how it began, how it fell apart, and everything in between. It’s kind of pointless to try to explain the plot more in detail, because the whole thing is rather non-linear. We jump back and forth from the future to the past, in no particular order. Alvy often breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience and also inserts his present-day self in his flashbacks to comment on what’s going on. It’s a very contemplative movie, but it only works if you’re actually interested in the characters. If you’re not, it’s still good, but it’s nothing more than an amalgamation of compelling existential thoughts on relationships and human nature. Good enough.
I love a bunch of Woody Allen’s stuff, but I can’t say Annie Hall is my favourite. The thing is, I prefer him behind the camera. As an old man, his neurotic personality comes off as funny, but as a younger man it’s just plain annoying. Moreover, I’ve never liked Diane Keaton either. I understand that she had become Allen’s muse by this point, sort of like Liv Ullman was to Ingmar Bergman, but still. While other people see her as a cute ditsy girl, I just see her as trying too hard. She never seems natural, and she’s even worse when paired with Woody Allen. They make a really weird couple. Ultimately, while the whole relationship contemplation narrative is super interesting, it’s hard for me to enjoy it when I can’t connect to the protagonists.
Before I move on with my unpopular opinion, I just want to point out that I love the scene pictured above. While waiting in line at the movies, Annie and Alvy get stuck in front of a loud, pretentious college professor who disses the work of Italian director Federico Fellini and media theorist Marshall McLuhan. This drives Alvy up the wall; he can’t stand it. It doesn’t take long before he decides to address the camera and ask what the hell you’re supposed to do when you’re stuck with a guy like that. Watch the rest to see how everything works out.
Moments like this one really make the movie. That’s why I can’t say that I disliked it, per say. Still, while I’m at it, let me point out another thing that bugged me a bit. The movie is titled Annie Hall. Diane Keaton, who plays the titular character, was actually born Diane Hall. What’s more, a lot of people actually call her Annie, as a diminutive of Diane. So you see, Diane Keaton literally IS Annie Hall. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton actually HAD a complicated on-and-off relationship. If you’re like me and you tend to overthink things, watching Annie Hall becomes really complicated. It hits a bit too close to home. What really happened? How much of the character is actually Diane Keaton and how much of it is fictional? Where do you draw the line? I know it’s common practice, especially in TV shows (case in point: Seinfeld, The Mindy Project, That’s So Raven…) but I always find it strange.
Okay, let’s end with what I loved about this movie. I loved that it felt authentic. I loved that it was personal to Woody Allen. I loved that it was brutally honest. I loved that it tackled the complexities of everyday life. Spoiler alert: there obviously isn’t a clear cut resolution, but that’s how relationships work in real life too. You can’t pinpoint one reason why things don’t work out. You can’t have a clean break and tie up your loose ends with a bow. Life is messy, and so is this movie. In that sense, the execution is quite genius. Then again, I’m not surprised. After all, this is Woody Allen, and whether you like him or not, there’s a reason why he took Hollywood by storm.