Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).
Annie Hall has been the gateway drug for many into the diverse career of director Woody Allen. The 1977 film is at once a standalone romantic comedy gem, and, together with Manhattan and the more recent Midnight in Paris, considered a long-standing fan favourite ranked as the best from the auteur’s filmography.
The movie, co-written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman, follows the relationship between a Jewish comedy writer, Alvy Singer (Allen), and chanteuse Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), who couldn’t be more unsuited for one another. Their neuroses fuel their fluctuating courtship as they butt heads over everything from therapy to cooking lobsters.
Their story is as much about the struggles of finding a suitable mate and trying to make it work as it is about discovering that one must be happy with themself first in order for said relationship to actually work. Both Alvy and Annie aren’t content with who they are or where they are in life and so looking to one another for happiness is a frustrating and heartbreaking, yet also humorous, experience. As Alvy says, quoting Groucho Marx, “’I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.‘ That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.”
The feature would give Allen his first taste of Oscar, with Annie Hall winning four Academy Awards from five nominations. Keaton won her first, and so far only, Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar, and Allen, although nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, took home Best Director, Best Screenplay, and overall, Best Picture.
Annie Hall delivers some of Allen’s best dialogue while foraying into new territory by breaking the fourth wall, with Allen turning towards the camera and addressing the audience directly, as well as the inclusion of bits like Alvy materialising Marshall McLuhan in a cinema queue to disprove a pretentious cinemagoer’s ravings. Annie Hall has conventional romantic elements enveloped in Allen’s unique perspective on life and was, according to Allen, a major turning point in his career.
Annie Hall is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.