I tend not to be a fan of Woody Allen’s films. Aside from his personal dealings potentially swaying me away from his work, I simply don’t find his films all that deep or funny. I did enjoy Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), but I was much younger when I saw it, so I’m not sure how well it holds up over time. I really didn’t like Manhattan, but that may have been colored by the aforementioned personal dealings that I can usually separate - just hit too close to home.
Annie Hall, however, is different. I walked away from it feeling like I do about every other Woody Allen film I have seen, though upon further reflection (read as: the next morning), I realized that I actually did enjoy it. Diane Keaton’s character here was less annoying than she was in Manhattan, though I still have a really hard time believing that anyone who’s even mildly attractive would ever willingly want to sleep with Woody Allen. (Sorry, bro.)
Allen used neat tricks in this film, like when Keaton, as Hall, steps out of her body to convey the “distance” she is feeling while he is trying to have sex with her. Or that little animated scene. Or when Allen, as Alvy Singer, blatantly steps out of line at the movie theater to directly address the audience, then pulls Marshall McLuhan himself into the frame. This, I’ll give you, was funny (even though I had seen the clip before) and was pure filmmaking genius.
There was just something better about this film that I can’t put my finger on that made it stand out as a little something special next to films like Midnight in Paris or Manhattan. That’s probably the reason for Roger Ebert saying once that it was “everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie.” And the fact that it won four Oscars in 1978 and was nominated for five probably lends credence to the fact that it is a quality picture (though, I usually feel like those ceremonies are rigged and not necessarily always a great judge of “quality”).
Another positive quirk about Annie Hall is the fact that it doesn’t end on a happy note. He doesn’t get the girl, though you watch their relationship and it never appears like he’s going to anyway. If Facebook were around back then, their relationship could easily be classified under “It’s Complicated.” Granted, many films have played the “doesn’t get the girl” angle before and after this film (Casablanca, anyone?), but there’s something more refreshing about that ending because it is often more realistic than tying everything up in a happy bow at the end can be.
I don’t think I ever really laughed out loud at this film - even the movie theater scene was good enough to actually make me smile, but laugh? No. Yet, Annie Hall is ranked at number two on Rotten Tomatoes’ 25 Best Romantic Comedies, so I guess the comedy has either gone over my head, or I am jaded from years of watching films in which people did it better.