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|Index||95 reviews in total|
Some claim that "Interiors" is sensational proof that Woody Allen is as
comfortable directing stark drama as he is intellectual comedies;
others say it's nothing more than a cheap imitation of Ingmar Bergman,
a film class exercise. I see the merit of both opinions. Ultimately, I
think Allen is a more satisfying film maker when he at least injects
some humour into his drama (a la "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Husbands
and Wives," "Hannah and Her Sisters"). Not one single moment of levity
is to be found in "Interiors." This is as dark and morbidly suffocating
as the darkest Bergman. Yet I can't deny that this film had a
tremendous effect on me when I first saw it. Yes, at times it does seem
to be aping Bergman almost to the point of parody, but it manages to
have a blistering impact regardless.
That impact is due in large part to the acting, and particularly to the devastating performance of Geraldine Page as the family matriarch, who is slowly unraveling under the weight of her family's airless dysfunction. Some may be turned off by Page's mannered performance, but I wasn't one of them. And all of the actors do just as well with their parts. It was refreshing to see Diane Keaton play a role so different from the ding bat character she played in "Annie Hall" and which has so defined her career. Maureen Stapleton probably suffers the most from Allen's at times heavy-handed treatment of the material. Her character is a walking symbol and Allen wastes no opportunity to make that painfully obvious. She doesn't have a very large role, so her part of the story isn't a huge detriment to the film, but it could have been handled much better.
Overall though, "Interiors" is a very good movie and deserves to be seen not simply as an homage to Bergman, or as a noble effort from a beloved director, but on its own merits as a powerful family drama.
`Interiors' is making the rounds on cable again so I've had the opportunity
to see it once again.
Even upon my first viewing back in 1986, I found certain elements of the film over simplistic. First is Maureen Stapleton's persona a LIFE FORCE. Yes, Ms. Stapleton is more than fine in her performance. She's so natural and nice, that you know that if you were stuck hanging around this rather creepy, morbid over intellectual family, you would be delighted to have her company. But to overstate this fact by having her dress in bright red dresses and then to emphatically state things like how she thinks E.G. Marshall's house is `so pale' and then bring out a tray of hot dog franks and meat balls, everything about the role positively screams `FUN, LIFE AFFIRMING! VIBRANT!'. Ok, ok we get it. And to top it all off, SHE is the one who literally, LITERALLY breathes life back into Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) at the end. Oye. Couldn't Allen have given his audience the credit for being able to use their brains? The second thing I found is not really over simplistic but rather underwritten. It's the character of Flynn played by Kristin Griffith. To say her role is underwritten is an understatement. It's hard to determine exactly why her character is even in the movie to begin with. She's not on screen much at all and her character really doesn't do much in terms of establishing anything related to how the family dynamic works (or doesn't work, actually) as the other two sisters, Joey and Renata, do. And worst of all is the incomprehensible scene near the end where she's nearly raped by Frederick. The whole scene is out of place. Is this the reason why her character was created? It's not a titillating scene or anything but it doesn't make much sense except to make the character of Frederick appear even more reprehensible than he already is.
Despite these two flaws, overall, `Interiors' is a fine film. It's not great but there are moments that have emotional power. It doesn't really ever draw the viewer in enough for us to feel enough sympathy for most of the characters. And though this chilliness is most likely intended, it's not necessary. I don't think Allen's film would've suffered even the slightest if just one scene of comfort and `semi' joy was seen. The closest we get is some tenderness between Hurt's Joey and Waterston's Mike in bed after she's told him she's pregnant. There's a scene between Renata and Frederick after she's had a moment that can best be described as realization of her body and soul that I feel should've been played with more tenderness. Instead the characters are forced apart by their dialogue and their supposed disdain for each other that is driving their marriage apart.
The two elements that hold the film together are the performances of Mary Beth Hurt and, most especially, Geraldine Page.
First Ms. Hurt. You could feel how pitiful she was. But more importantly, you could see how pitiful SHE thought she was. This is a person who is all too aware of their faults and failings but feels helpless to change them. As a character, Joey can be infuriating but I think most people have known someone like her: the over intellectualized person who is brainy but incapable of making any choices at all for fear of making the `wrong' choice. Ms. Hurt is very fine here because she doesn't try and make Joey easier to take. There's no softening of the character and in the end, despite it all, you feel sympathy for her. She's trapped and all too aware of it.
Secondly, there is Ms. Page. Possibly her performance is the sole reason to even see this film. Her portrayal of the deeply troubled matron of the family is staggering. Like Ms. Hurt's Joey, you might feel some contempt for her but in the end, she has your sympathies. This is a woman who through her troubled actions has kept her family in a state of turmoil for years. There is nothing more heartbreaking than realizing that someone you love is also the reason (or at least part of the reason) why you are so miserable. Ms. Pages and the film's finest moment comes in the pivotal scene where her husband, Arthur (E.G. Marshall, adequate and capable in another underwritten role) goes to a church with her and there, tells her of his desire to finalize their divorce. Ms. Page slowly allows Eve's reaction to simmer and eventually boil up to the surface. You can see her trying her best to control and conceal her emotions. As she sits in pew and he's trying to gently explain the situation, Eve's eyes dart all over the place. It's in the eyes where Ms. Page's performance lies. Her eyes look dead but it's there where you can see everything she's feeling: the hope when Arthur sends a dozen white roses on her birthday, the despair when he visits her and he gives her only a small kiss on her forehead or the torment in that church scene.
The scene in the church is so well played that I wished Allen hadn't cut it off when he did. It would have been interesting to see how the whole scene played out. But, this being a `tasteful' film, Allen ends it too soon.
`Interiors' is far from perfect but it is memorable and does have moments of real power and emotion underneath all the more shallow trappings.
After a series of great comedies Woody gives drama a try. Some of the expressed ideas (especially the thoughts about death) have already appeared in his comedies before. The film is talky and the idea that actors have other ways to express feelings doesn't seem to come to Woody's mind. I have hardly seen a bore like this one before. Even the weak "Celebrity" is more appealing for me.
I would have rated this film a 10 if it was a satire of self-obsessed neurotic upper middle class bores. Unfortuantely, it was supposed to be serious. If anyone thinks this is an American verison of Ingmar Bergman, check out Bergman. Bergman is always aware of the outside world, whether political or social. Persona isn't merely about an actress who loses her inability to speak and the relationship she has with the nurse who takes care of her. It is about class, and most of all, it is an anti-war film. The characters in Interiors are boring and have no relationship with anything outside of themselves. When I meet people like this in real life, I run in the opposite direction. However, as a satire of really selfish people, this movie works!
Poor Woody Allen. Instead of being INFLUENCED by Bergman, he temporarily BECAME Bergman. A third rate one at that.
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