Overview: Woody Allen’s quirky classic follows Alvy Singer and Annie Hall, two seemingly mismatched New Yorkers, as they try to navigate their way through a young relationship. 1977; Rated PG; 93 minutes.
The Opening: Annie Hall opens with Alvy Singer delivering a biting monologue on his views of life and relationships. Like much of the film, the scene is misleadingly simple. On the surface, this is just a man in front of a stark background, addressing the audience. When you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that this guy has a lot to say about the world. Singer is a cynical, educated, liberal comedian with eloquence and talent that he doesn’t seem to deserve. He shouldn’t be likable – He’s rude, impatient, selfish, a self-proclaimed “bigot for the left.” – but somehow, and I’m speaking solely toward the character, he’s easy to root for. Throughout the film we see Singer rant and rave, fumble with conversation, and generally self-destruct.
Annie Hall as a Romantic Comedy: Most would call Annie Hall a romantic comedy. There are a number of interesting humorous visual gags and the writing is filled with tongue-in-cheek humor. You’ve probably heard this film quoted, whether you knew it or not. The romance aspect is big, too. The focus of the film is the relationship between Singer and Annie, who is played with layered charm and emotional nuance by Diane Keaton. Annie’s breezy, “la-di-da” personality is easy to love, but she has her issues too. She rarely says what she’s feeling, she’s never sure if she’s happy, and she always seems to be striving for more. Because these characters are so neurotic, whether they’re struggling to cook live lobsters in their tiny kitchen or simply chatting over lunch, they’re constantly pretty funny.
Annie Hall as Social Commentary: But to me, Annie Hall is more than a romantic comedy. Some have called it Allen’s film for the “Me Decade,” and there’s certainly merit to that argument. Singer sure is wrapped up in his own mind. But it’s more than that. Few films have quite as much to say as this one. Sure, the wisdom is delivered through witty, sharp quips, but it’s wisdom nonetheless. Singer says that life is full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and that it’s all over much too quickly. That hits home.
A Tryst for Cinephiles: Annie Hall is a movie that broadly appeals to my inner-movie lover. It’s a little pretentious, a little self-aware, and very clever and inventive. It’s for people who can connect with a main character that is smart and progressive, but also rude, hypocritical, and totally unsure what he’s doing with his life.
Watch This Movie If Like: Anything by Woody Allen, (500) Days of Summer, Juno