Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hannah and Her Sisters

Hannah and Her Sisters is another comedy/drama about relationships by Woody Allen, and while I didn't think it was as good as a couple other examples I've seen, it was still a very good movie. It shows the intertwining lives of three sisters over the course of two years as they go through relationship woes and sometimes don't get along too well. Mia Farrow plays Hannah, whose husband played by Michael Caine feels attracted to her sister played by Barbara Hershey, who is also in a relationship with an artist played by Max Von Sydow. Dianne Wiest is a struggling actress who butts heads romantically with her friend and business partner played by Carrie Fisher. Woody Allen plays a TV writer who has a history with both Farrow and Wiest, and believes he may have a tumor. All of these plot threads dance around each other and come together repeatedly around Thanksgiving, when the whole family gathers to pretend nothing is wrong with their lives.

While I have enjoyed other films by Allen more, I think this one actually impressed me the most with its direction. The unique use of title cards, the way things are cut together, the way some of the scenes are shot, are all really interesting. It's certainly the best case I've seen so far for Woody Allen as a great artist and not just a guy who makes cute, funny movies. There's some of that too though, especially in his subplot, which is mostly tangentially related to the other stories until near the end. It involves him worrying about his mortality and looking for solace in religion, but because he's neurotic, nebbish Woody Allen the way he goes about it is really silly and amusing. He's mostly there to provide laughs while everyone else is doing heavier lifting. Caine and Wiest both won Oscars for their work, and they along with pretty much everyone in the film do great jobs with the material, sympathizing people with often very unlikable traits, which can be difficult to do. I can see why those two were singled out for their work, but the whole thing is a pretty outstanding ensemble. It's not quite as fun a movie as it could have been, but I liked what it did.

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