Annie Hall Movie Review: Look, There’s God Coming Out of the Restroom

From the opening lines of Annie Hall, we know there will be no chance for romance between Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). In fact, we are instantly told the relationship has been over for a year. Alvy is too down on himself and his abilities, quoting the famous Groucho Marx line: I’d rather not belong to a club that would have me as a member. Annie is too sweet and charming and vivacious and gets more out of one meeting with a therapist than Alvy has gotten in fifteen years. Annie Hall is a romantic comedy knocked on its side; you never know what will fall out.

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At the opening of the movie, Alvy Singer is an up-and-coming comedian who is recognized on the street for having been on Carson “a few times.” Though he goes on lots of dates, nobody has the intelligence and wit to keep up with him until his best friend, Rob (Tony Roberts), sets up a double-date tennis match and he meets Annie Hall. Annie is a terrible driver (“It’s okay, we can walk to the curb from here. It will be fun.”); she gets uncomfortable easily and seems to say the word “jew” more than might make sense; but she is also a photographer who is auditioning to sing at a nightclub. She is a budding artist who wants to get some cats, and he is an established artist obsessed with The Sorrow and the Pity. It is not that the relationship will end that keeps the viewer interested; it is the how.

Anything is possible in Annie Hall. Allen uses every device he can to tell his story. There are animated scenes, scenes where children stand up and tell us who they will be as adults (“I used to be a heroin addict, but now I’m a methadone addict.”), and split screens where a Christian and a Jewish family talk to each other across the country and across time. Characters talk to the screen, there are voice-overs, captions, flash-forwards and flashbacks. In one scene, Alvy and Annie are waiting in line for a movie when the man behind them keeps arguing about modern media and starts to quote Marshall McLuhan. Alvy pulls McLuhan from off-screen and lets him rip into the opinionated man.

It is a mostly off-and-on relationship for the two until they meet Tony Lacey (Paul Simon) a music producer who wants to lure Annie to L.A. to produce an album of her songs. The tug and pull of L.A. weighs heavy on Annie, but in no way entices Alvy, who is entrenched in everything New York City. In one scene in Los Angeles, Alvy drives into five other cars while trying to exit a parking lot. A police officer arrives on scene and asks Alvy for his driver’s license; instead, Alvy tears his license up into little squares and tosses them into the wind (“I have a terrific problem with authority.”), and eventually ends up in the county jail. The schism between the two is ultimately linked to where and when one is comfortable doing their art.

Annie Hall won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress; it is bittersweet and tender and thoughtful and damn funny. You owe it to yourself to see it as soon as possible.

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Greg Hammond

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