You know, for a good portion of this movie, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Then I heard the cynical wit of Woody Allen.
“I had a great evening; it was like the Nuremberg trials.”
His films have always been hit-or-miss with me, and I openly don’t really get Annie Hall, but there is something undeniable about his brilliance. The man is a genius, and thankfully, I can separate the art from the man.
Hannah and Her Sisters is reputed to be one of Allen’s best, and it is. It’s a story about a bunch of unhappy adults (surprise). Elliot is married to Hannah (Mia Farrow), but he begins an affair with her sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey). Lee is dating an artist (Max Von Sydow), and it’s really not much of anything. Meanwhile, Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Allen), a TV writer and hypochondriac, swears that he’s sick with a brain tumor, and her sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest), is floundering in life. Allen always saves the funniest material for himself, but I’m not complaining.
I miss comedies like these, ones that are really just dramas with funny bits in them. I feel like comedies now are so focused on cramming as many jokes into a page as they can, which ends up taking the real meat from the picture. All becomes a caricature, a folly. The characters in this film are just like real people, and Allen takes care to help us empathize with them (even if their voiceover monologues could not be farther from actual thoughts).
I think Woody Allen works off a simple conflict, and then goes from there. A man is in love with his wife’s sister—a man is in love with his ex-wife’s sister. A man goes back in time at midnight in Paris. Sure, some of the lines may be unrealistic—the type to be read, not spoken—but what Allen has created here is a pensive masterpiece. I truly pity Hannah and her sisters, but I love them like family.
Hannah and Her Sisters is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.