I’ll quantify that statement by saying: I haven’t seen everything he’s produced; but if a film has a Woody Allen tag, I’ll generally go check it out.
On the whole I think he’s a great writer and has produced some excellent stuff. Quirky plots, varied subject matter and above all interesting character interactions spring to mind whenever I hear his name.
On checking Wikipedia, I was actually surprised to find that Woody Allen was already writing before he did his stint as a stand-up comedian. I’d always assumed the latter had lead to the former (rather than being sandwiched somewhere in between).
Either way, I guess Allen’s talents as a writer probably benefited from the stand-up experience. The skill to observe human nature and extract a story worth telling he has. But I’d guess standing in front of a live audience teaches you something about delivery, with the obvious benefit of immediate (and undiluted) feedback.
If there’s a trace of humor to be found in Allen’s observations; all the better (in my humble opinion). Allen’s talent for timing, delivery and sending the plot off at unexpected tangents are well honed; but it’s more often the dry dialog and quirky characters that bring the quiet smiles and hold my interest.
Maybe that was my problem with this particular movie. The last Woody Allen flick I caught was Whatever Works with a moody but ultimately lovable character Boris (played by Larry David). Previous Allen favorites have usually included Woody on the other side of the camera, playing his usual neurotic roles. Maybe I was in the mood for a feel good movie; or at least one where there was a Larry or a Woody character to make me smile occasionally.
For me, this movie was littered with characters that show the worst that humankind has to offer. A failed author, Roy, who’s had one marginally successful novel published and struggles to create a follow up. Who sits around the house all day doing naff all but sponging off his wife, Sally; who in turn sponges off her mother (Helena).
Whilst Roy and Sally’s marriage falls apart, Helena’s own marriage, to Sally’s father (Alfie), has already broken down. Alfie (played by Anthony Hopkins) has a mid-life crisis, moves out and on finding it more difficult than expected to find companionship, ends up wooing and ultimately marrying a hooker.
This isn’t even a Pretty Woman style romance where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere find their shared happy ending. Just a predictable ‘bleed him dry‘ opportunist with no conscience, gratitude or even common sense.
As for Helena (played by Gemma Jones…or Bridget Jones’s mum, to you and me). I’d guess she’s the only character most people would find any sympathy for. But even here, I found it all terribly depressing. Deserted by her partner in the twilight of her years, bolstered by the occasional whiskey and desperately awaiting predictions of a Tall Dark Stranger from a charlatan fortune teller. (Yet another opportunist with no conscience re: preying on the weak and gullible).
I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, by describing everything that transpires. But I will mention that Antonio Banderas also has a role in the movie…and his character isn’t particularly likeable either.
If I was to quote Stan, Kyle, Cartman or Kenny and say “I’ve learned something today”; the only thing I can think of is: how not to treat other people and how being self centered will hopefully dictate that you get what you deserve.
But I’d hope ya mum and dad already taught ya that one…;o)