Hollywood Ending

Well, they can’t all be classics.

I can’t think of anyone who likes all of Woody Allen’s movies, but most of the time, even with the lopsided ones, I can find something going on in it that makes it worthwhile.

Hollywood Ending is one of the very few where, despite the sincere efforts of everyone involved, it doesn’t click.

Most of the cast is great, but there are a few key performances that just fall flat, sound off-key. Some of the writing is really sharp, really clever, but again, in a couple of key places, I have to look at it and go Huh? This is the guy who wrote Hannah and Her Sisters?

Scenes sometimes go on too long, and a few times actors even flub their lines. It’s hard to believe that the man who has somtimes re-shot entire movies decided to use some of the takes he has here.

But like I say, they can’t all be classics.

But it does remind me of how many great films Woody Allen has made. In fact, I would have to say that, of all living American directors, he has a higher percentage of great films than anyone else. Like roughly a third.

I would say, in chronological order, they are:

Love and Death
Annie Hall
Stardust Memories
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy
Broadway Danny Rose
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Hannah and Her Sisters
Radio Days
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Husbands and Wives
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Bullets Over Broadway
Deconstructing Harry
Sweet and Lowdown
Match Point

Wow! That’s 18 great movies! And that’s not counting movies he didn’t direct, like Play it Again, Sam and (cough) Antz!

Then there are movies that kind of skate by on charm (Bananas), fine pictures with debilitating flaws (Mighty Aphrodite), and misfired experiments (Shadows and Fog).

Mostly, these later comedies (Celebrity, Small Time Crooks, Hollywood Ending, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Anything Else) seem like scripts that he shot in order to keep working. Which is fine. Mostly they maintain the high level of technical excellence that we’re used to (Celebrity, for instance, is one of the most beautifully shot of all his movies), but every now and then there will be some scene or bit of business or performance by a major star and I’ll say “What’s up with that?”

There are a number of scenes in Hollywood Ending that really fizz and pop, but then there are bizarre lapses (like the last-minute inclusion of a long-lost son) that seem really lazy and perfunctory.

Luckily, as we can see with Match Point, his gift has not entirely lost him.
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15 Responses to “Hollywood Ending”
  1. craigjclark says:

    I’ve seen all of Woody Allen’s films (and since Manhattan Murder Mystery I’ve managed to catch all of them in the theaters), and I have to agree that Hollywood Ending was one of his weakest efforts in recent years. As one critic pointed out, he’s playing blind for much of the picture, but he appears to be unable to tell which direction sound is coming from as well, which makes no sense. Still, thank God for the French, right?

    I have no beef with your list of his great films with a couple exceptions: I think A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy falls into the “charming but slight” category, and Another Woman is the kind of film that I’ve found gains resonance with multiple viewings. It also contains one of Gena Rowlands’ best performances outside of her husband’s oeuvre.

    And as much as I liked Match Point, I believe he still has one more great comedy in him. All he has to do is challenge himself and make sure he isn’t coasting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I liked Interiors.

    • Todd says:

      Yeah, I should go watch that again. It’s probably aged well, now that we’re more used to the “Dramatic” Woody.

      My problem with his dramas (or his “turgid dramas,” which is what I call them when I’m in a bad mood) is that after years of watching them, I made the mistake of discovering Ingmar Bergman, and realized how much Woody had been lifting directly from the master. Interiors, I’m guessing, is pretty good, until you watch something like Autumn Sonata or Wild Strawberries or Through a Glass Darkly. After that it just seems like a pale imitation.

      • craigjclark says:

        I remember one time a couple years back when I was actually in the mood to watch Interiors. I was just as shocked by this as you probably are, so I made sure I watched it before the mood passed. It was better than it was the first time I had rented it way back when, but it still pales in comparison to Stardust Memories, Another Woman and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

        Of all his dramas, the one that probably resonates the least for me is September. Of course, that’s the one he actually made twice and still couldn’t get to click.

        • gazblow says:


          I got into a Netflix fit a few years ago where I decided to see all the Woody Allen films I hadn’t seen. Then decided to see as many Bergman films as they had. I’m with Todd on this one. Don’t bother watching Interiors, Another Woman or September. Watch Winter Light or The Silence or Through a Glass Darkly instead. Woody’s Bergman-style movies are a pale comparison.

          • craigjclark says:

            Re: Woody/Bergman

            I catch Bergman as it comes up. I actually saw The Silence at a repertory screening a few years back, but left the post-film discussion early because one of the other audience members was obsessed with finding out what the dwarves symbolized.

  3. eronanke says:

    I *liked* “Curse of the Jade Scorpion”. But, I agree, “Anything Else” and “Melinda and Melinda” kinda did not rock. That being said, the project I enjoyed *most* of his was “Wild Man Blues”, the documentary of his musical tour of Europe.

    • craigjclark says:

      Thanks to Curse, I can’t see the word “Madagascar” (and to a lesser extent “Constantinople”) without thinking of David Ogden Stiers intoning it over a telephone.

  4. urbaniak says:

    I’m in one of them but I can’t remember which.

  5. greyaenigma says:

    I’m struck once again (ow) by how many of his films I haven’t seen. Ah, wasted youth. It would probably be worthwhile to clear a few dozen trashy horror films from my Netflix queue to make room.

  6. dougo says:

    I came across an interesting alternate take on Anything Else.

    I like Celebrity quite a bit, and I enjoyed Hollywood Ending too. But I guess I’m not the typical Woody Allen fan—Sweet and Lowdown and Radio Days did nothing for me, and my favorite (by far) is Purple Rose of Cairo.