Considered to be "Woody Allen's breakthrough movie" (Time), Annie Hall won* four OscarsÂ(r), including Best Picture, and established Allen as the premier auteur filmmaker. Thought by many critics to be Allen's magnum opus, Annie Hall confirmed that he had, "completed the journey from comic to humorist, from comedy writer to wit [and] from inventive moviemaker to creative artist" (Saturday Review). Alvy Singer (Allen) is one of Manhattan's most brilliant comedians, but when it comes to romance, his delivery needs a little work. Introduced byhis best friend, Rob (Tony Roberts), Alvy falls in love with the ditzy but delightful nightclub singer, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). When his own insecurities sabotage the affair, Annie is forced to leave Alvy for a new lifeand lover (Paul Simon)in Los Angeles. Knowing he may have lost Annie forever, Alvy's willing to go to any lengthseven driving L.A.'s freewaysto recapture the only thing that ever mattered'true love. *1977: Picture; Actress (Keaton); Director; Original Screenplay
is one of the truest, most bittersweet romances on film. In it, Allen plays a thinly disguised version of himself: Alvy Singer, a successful--if neurotic--television comedian living in Manhattan. Annie (the wholesomely luminous Dianne Keaton) is a Midwestern transplant who dabbles in photography and sings in small clubs. When the two meet, the sparks are immediate--if repressed. Alone in her apartment for the first time, Alvy and Annie navigate a minefield of self-conscious "is-this-person-someone-I'd-want-to-get-involved-with?" conversation. As they speak, subtitles flash their unspoken thoughts: the likes of "I'm not smart enough for him" and "I sound like a jerk." Despite all their caution, they connect, and we're swept up in the flush of their new romance. Allen's antic sensibility shines here in a series of flashbacks to Alvy's childhood, growing up, quite literally, under a rumbling roller coaster. His boisterous Jewish family's dinner table shares a split screen with the WASP-y Hall's tight-lipped holiday table, one Alvy has joined for the first time. His position as outsider is uncontestable he looks down the table and sizes up Annie's "Grammy Hall" as "a classic Jew-hater."
The relationship arcs, as does Annie's growing desire for independence. It quickly becomes clear that the two are on separate tracks, as what was once endearing becomes annoying. Annie Hall embraces Allen's central themes--his love affair with New York (and hatred of Los Angeles), how impossible relationships are, and his fear of death. But their balance is just right, the chemistry between Allen's worry-wart Alvy and Keaton's gangly, loopy Annie is one of the screen's best pairings. It couldn't be more engaging. --Susan Benson