Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning comedy “Annie Hall,” arguably his first masterpiece, stands as one of the greatest films about male-female relationships in Hollywood’s history.
“Annie Hall” chronicles the doomed romance of Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), detailing with great humor their incompatibilities. The great critic Andrew Sarris called Alvy and Annie the “Romeo and Juliet of the analysands.” Alvy and Annie are in fact the Adam and Eve of the Me Decade.
In 1977, “Annie Hall” expressed viewers’ feelings about relationships perfectly, by questioning the value of traditional relationships in the face of changing lifestyles. As Diane Keaton later commented: “Some people have come up to me and said, there’s so much of what we feel in Annie Hall. It’s about relationships now, and what it’s like for us. I mean, obviously, there’s been a change (in society at large). There are many more people who are single and not actually ready to get married. Women who are 30 and not ready and not knowing if they want to get married and who are still finding out about themselves.”
Beyond the plentiful jokes in the film, viewers are left with Allen’s candid and bittersweet assessment of human relationships in modern society. There was a large audience in America ready to see such an assessment. Time magazine reported that, “Annie Hall addicts have been returning to theaters three and four times.” Interest in the romance of Alvy and Annie was so strong that the Sunset Boulevard health-food restaurant where they split up became a popular stop for Hollywood tour buses.
One of the film’s most talked-about scenes during its initial run shows Alvy and Annie on a split screen talking to their respective shrinks. The subject of conversation in both cases is the frequency with which the couple has sex. Alvy complains, “Hardly ever, maybe three times a week.” Annie, on the other hand, is frustrated that they make love “All the time, at least three times a week.”
To represent the male view of things, through the character of Alvy, Allen updated the familiar stock character of the “little man” who is at bay in a complex world. In a way, Alvy Singer was like a Charlie Brown grown up. The role of Alvy Singer became synonymous with Americans’ perceptions of Woody Allen.
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen)
Annie Hall (Diane Keaton)
Rob (Tony Roberts)
Robin (Janet Margolin)
Pam (Shelley Duvall)
Tony Lacey (Paul Simon)
Mom Hall (Colleen Dewhurst)
Dad Hall (Donald Symington)
Duane Hall (Christopher Walken)
At the end, Alvy, realizing that the relationship is doomed, tells Annie: “A relationship is like a shark–it has to move forward or it dies. What we’ve got here is a dead shark.”
Runnning Time: 93 Minutes