If the plot recipe for a typical 1920’s romantic comedy “Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl” were to be modified to Woody Allen’s style, the recipe would be the following: “Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy ALMOST gets girl. Boy loses girl.”
At least, this is how Allen proves it, both as a director and as a leading actor, in one of his most successful and most Woody Allen-esque films ever- the romantic comedy with elements of drama “Annie Hall” (1977). Indeed, this feature yields a perfect combination of utter absurdity, crude realism, honest autobiography and…of course, formless comedy; hence, there is little room for wondering why “Annie Hall” got four Academy Award, including Best Picture (one of the very few comedies to have received such an award).
The plot line of this movie follows the roller coaster-like intimate relationship between the neurotic Jewish- American comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) and a frivolous aspiring club singer and literature student Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Of course, there are some prologue, in medias res, and flashback techniques employed to facilitate character development: we learn of Alvy’s propensity to neurosis in the opening scene where he is shown as a child depressed over the possible expansion of the Universe.
Annie’s disregard of societal norms is obvious in the next scene where she shamelessly declares to her boyfriend Singer (in front of the whole queue in the theatre) that her unusual moodiness is the inevitable side effect of her monthly visitor; the sudden remembrance of the first love flick between them is presented in the form of the seemingly innocent tennis court scene.
Afterward, the escalating action builds up thanks to the episodes of juxtaposing Alvy’s and Annie’s words and thoughts while the lovers are drinking wine in the girl’s apartment, of Keaton’s character getting hysterical after spotting a spider in the bathroom, and of Alvy being introduced to his beloved’s upper-middle class family who, by the way, hold quite anti-Semitic beliefs. In the climax of the story, Annie falls for the Hollywood producer Paul Simon (one of “Simon & Garfunkel” members) and they run off to sunny California, to Alvy’s chagrin.
The desperate comedian tries his best to re-gain control of Annie’s heart, but he manages to get as much as “just friends”-like coffee meetings. The girl seems lost forever.
As boring, mundane, and physically unattractive as he looks, Woody Allen’s character is simultaneously comical, absurd, and pathetic. Yet, Allen’s excellent directing skills provide the milieu inhabited by the character with absolute truism. Aside from the fact that Alvy Singer has a lot of common things with the actor/director (being expelled from NYU, feeling perplexed over his Jewish identity, having tendency to much younger women), this character stands for the typical New York bachelor with all the vicissitudes and thirst for romance.
Keaton’s character, on the other hand, is a perfect foil for the aforementioned figure. Indeed, Diane Keaton (“The Godfather,” “Manhattan”) displays strong onscreen chemistry with Allen, most likely due to their numerous collaborations both in film and on the theatrical stage. So, she fully deserves the Oscar for “Annie Hall,” in the Best Leading Actress category.
Other prominent Award- winning actors also make successful appearances, albeit cameo ones, in this romantic comedy. Sigourney Weaver (“The Death and the Maiden”), who won a Best Supporting Actress role for “Working Girl,” exemplifies Singer’s swinging nature as his one- night stand date. Christopher Walken (Best Supporting Actor for “Deer Hunter”) adds an edge about sexuality as the timid Duane Hall- Annie’s brother, who is unsure of his own orientation. Despite the fact that all these characters are relatively minor, their appearances bring about more global issues defining a romance.
Aside from being classified as a slight deviation from Allen’s typical “formless comedies,” “Annie Hall” fully succeeds in presenting life…and love without mascara and make up. In only 93 minutes, one can see how romance, desperation, identity, and wishful thinking could really mingle.