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Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Probably when all is said and done, my
favorite Allen movie. This is definitely one of those examples where
the sum is greater than the parts. Great shots of New York
(specifically the city's architecture), great situations, great parties
and great music
Among the Manhattan-dwelling characters is Michael Caine, who is married to Hannah (Mia Farrow) but lusts after her sister (Barbara Hershey) who lives with a tormented artist (Max Von Sydow.) Hannah's ex-husband (Woody Allen) starts dating her other sister (Diane Weist) who wants to date Sam Waterston, even though he'd rather date her friend (Carrie Fisher).
In addition to the cameo by Julia Louise Dreyfuss, the film features two supporting performances by old school actors, Lloyd Nolan and Mia Farrow's real life mom, the original Jane in the Tarzan movies, Maureen O'Sullivan.
If that's not enough, Allen throws in plenty of his trademark hypochondria hysteria, questioning the meaning of the universe and whether God exists.
Arguably Woody Allen's best production with the exception of "Annie Hall". The film follows three sisters (Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest) through their careers and their relationships. Farrow is the backbone that keeps everything together. However, husband Michael Caine (Oscar-winning) has his eye of Hershey and something might come of his crush. Max Von Sydow is seeing Hershey, but he may not be enough to curve her lust. Wiest seems to be the odd one out as she struggles with everything, thinking of herself as second-rate to sister Farrow. You know she might fit in well with Farrow's ex-husband (the priceless Allen). A wild film of vivid characters that entertains to the paramount. Allen received an Oscar for his screenplay and was nominated yet again for his dead-on direction. Not a perfect film, but Allen's amazing story-telling and his superb creation of memorable characters and sequences make "Hannah and Her Sisters" one of the better films of the 1980s. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
"Hannah and Her Sisters" is a comedy/drama (though mostly drama) about a
dozen characters and their stories, all connecting back to three sisters:
Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest). Hannah
is the favorite, talented and kind, Lee is almost equally favored, but Holly
is the outcast, with a past of drugs and always asking for money. Other
characters include Hannah's hypochondriac ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen),
her current husband Elliot (Michael Caine), Lee's boyfriend Frederic (Max
von Sydow) and Holly's friend April (Carrie Fisher).
Like I said before, this is not so much a comedy as it is a drama. The comedy that's in it fits, and is good, but the drama is better. Elliot's secret love for Lee is handled in a romantic way, but their infidelity is still seen as wrong, and you feel their guilt and inner turmoil. Mickey thinks he has a brain tumor, he finds out he doesn't and then he feels worse, and starts desperately searching for a purpose to live. All the other stories are equally dramatic, with comedy fittingly sprinkled in places too.
The acting is quite good, everyone playing their part perfectly, whether it's big or small. The film's best performances come from Allen (in what's no doubt his best performance) and Dianne Wiest as the extremely under-confident youngest sister. Allen and Wiest don't necessarily carry the film, as there's no need to, but their segments were certainly the best, for me at least. The rest of the cast put forward too, especially Max von Sydow and Michael Caine in his first (and so far his only deserving) Oscar win.
Woody Allen's direction is at the top of its form here too, much like "Annie Hall" and his other greats. The camera work and use of voice overs are excellent. For instance, there is an intensely dramatic scene where the three sisters have lunch together and for the entire scene the camera rotates around the table, the speaker not always in the frame. His script is great too, it knows when to be dramatic and when to be funny and when to be both.
One of Allen's very best, 8/10.
Woody Allen makes movies that will sometimes be partial duds with great
lines and characters, and then he'll make an all around great movie
like Manhattan, Sleeper or Deconstructing Harry. In the 80's, he had a
period where most of his films were generally great (Midsummer Night's
Sex Comedy might be the exception). But this is one of the gems in that
period, a comedy with great acting matched with a finely tuned
Though not without an ending that leaves everything a little too neat (however upon pressure from the studio, not Allen's original intentions of course), this is another relationship-centric picture, with the side-bar of Woody's character being chronically afraid of death and what comes after it. Deservedly his last big award winner, it's a possibility for my favorite Woody 80s movie (even if the experience in the theater sucked- the downside to seeing an Allen movie is the large amount of old people, and the occasional old man who sits very close with a constantly shifting candy wrapper, smacking lips, and a penchant for a horrible sinus conditon...just think who the fans of Woody movies will be then they croak).
Very funny comedy has one of Woody's all time best casts. Dianne Wiest
is the best; glowing, neurotic, irritating and vulnerable, within
minutes. Michael Caine is the most touching, Mia Farrow, as always,
close to heartbreaking. I think it's her voice that does it. Nice
scenes with her and her real-life mother, Maureen O'Sullivan.
Like Manhattan, this picture looks beautiful; NY in all its many breath- taking colors. The relationships of everyone on the screen are perfectly woven, and Woody has the best sight gag of the film when he takes a bible and a crucifix out of a paper bag (to find religion), and follows them up with some Wonder Bread and mayonaisse. Hilarious!
Deserving of its writing and supporting actor Oscars, it's too bad everyone in the movie couldn't have won. They're all believable and enjoyable to watch. My favorite: Max Von Sydow as the very cynical, older Frederick. He should have had more moments. Imagine him at one of the Thanksgiving dinners...
While I am a Woody Allen fanatic, I'm not sure if I agree with the minority
of Woody fans who claim this is his best film, instead of "Annie Hall".
Sure, I would be quick to elect "Annie" as Woody's best, but then I regard
"Manhattan", "Stardust Memories", "Crimes & Misdemeanors", as well as
"Hannah And Her Sisters", and I become unsure. This is certainly one of
Woody's most mature films, and I would freely place it in my top five of
Woody's works. It nicely balances comedy with drama, and it also began a
new era of high accomplishment for Woody. Functioning as an ensemble drama
loosely organized around three sisters, "Hannah" chronicles several stories
at once. The film has an incredibly warm, intimate feeling about it, as
people talk in their earth-toned apartments over J.S. Bach or stroll through
the city's crisp autumn air. What rings most true about this film is that
it doesn't end quite the way you thought it would (the words "too tidy" and
"unpunished" get unfairly used a lot), yet it ends as it should.
Ironically, Hannah (played by Mia Farrow) doesn't fare too deeply in the film. The eldest of three, she's the family matriarch soothing her aging parents, a showbiz couple reluctantly settling into old age and blaming each other for it. Her husband Elliot (Michael Caine expertly stuttering & flushing) is consumed with guilt over his heavy crush on Hannah's sensuous, down-to-earth sister, Lee. Lee is slowly pulling away from her failing relationship with Frederick (the always excellent Max Von Sydow), a horribly misanthropic curmudgeon whose reliance on her as his last link to humanity becomes suffocating. The youngest sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest - kicking ass as usual), is a nervous, impatient actress whose insecurity and lack of success lead to competing with her best friend April over work and men. Meanwhile, Hannah's ex-husband Mickey (Woody), a severe hypochondriac, is trying desperately to accept his eventual mortality and still find some meaning in life, which it what it seems all the other characters are trying to do. I won't say where the stories are going or where they all end up, but I will say the ensemble cast is all-around great, Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest are definitely the stand-outs here (their Oscars were well-deserved), but Max Von Sydow and Barbara Hershey do quite fine as well. As for Woody - Mickey is the kind of character that fans were probably waiting for him to play for years, and he pulls it off with his classic ticks & twitches.
Woody's evident genius is shown here by juggling the separate stories back & forth so fluidly. Most attention seems to be focused on Elliot and Lee during the first half (both conflicted & confused), while the second half slightly centers around Mickey and Holly (both nervous & unsure). Mickey operates mostly as an outsider and the strength of his story doesn't pertain too much to "the sisters" (although there are two hysterical flashbacks sequences, one involving Hannah and the other detailing a disastrous date with Holly). Another masterstroke on Woody's part are the internal voice-overs. Woody is too smart to know that there are certain thoughts a person has that will exist only in their head, and extracting these feelings into some kind of dialogue with another person would seem forced. It's casual pacing, novelistic endeavors, vivid characters, cozy settings, heartfelt music and sharp, candid dialogue are what makes this film hold up beautifully for me after dozens of viewings. It's an absolute Woody Allen film.
This is what I would call a perfect film. This was my first Woody Allen experience and I have been shamelessly hooked ever since! I have probably seen it about 20x's and I always love it!! It has it all; it's hysterically funny at times (the hypochodriac), it's incredibly painful(afternoons) at others and the blending of the characters paths(lucky I ran into you) is just beautiful. I watch this movie every couple of months when I need a little cheering up and it always works. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Contrary to the comments of many critics (including the usually sagacious Ebert) the film IS a comedy, in the classic sense, as is an opera buffa, The Marriage of Figaro, A Midsummer Night's Dream, etc. One IMDb commentator here, mattijohn, describes it: "Holly got over her depression and sense of rejections, Elliot has gotten over his infatuation with Lee and finally realises how much he in fact loves Hannah and loves her, Lee is in a better relationship, in which she does not feel looked down upon etc. Similarly Mickey gets over his neurosis and gets on with living his life, not thinking and worrying all the time about happens next." Mozart, or Rossini, would write a final chorus with all of these principals voicing their joy.
An interesting and very well acted slice of different people's lives, the film poses a number of intriguing questions in terms of life, death, love and relationships. It is a fascinating film: carefully directed and aided by some meticulously perfect use of non-original music. The film is split in chapters, and such a style makes the film flow very well. Despite being a drama, it is still manages to meld in some of Woody Allen's delightful wit, creating a film with laughs, pains, joys and sorrows. And then there is the quality of the acting, which is stunning to say the least. Mia Farrow is sensational in the best performance of her career, just brilliant as the providing, sustaining sister of the family, and Caine, Allen, Hershey, Kavner and even Max Von Sydow are all at their careers' best. For a film that has nowhere much too go, it is certainly quite something.
Except for MANHATTAN, this stands alongside of ANNIE HALL as the top of
the game for the brilliant Woody Allen. A total rep company atmosphere
(in New York) with Michael Caine giving one of his most subtle and
touching performances. Dianne Wiest (her 1st of 2 Oscars for W. Allen
films) is striking, funny, and ultimately all too human. Barbara
Hershey (always talented since LAST SUMMER) has the perfect role at her
age, at that stage of her career, to play Lee (one of the sisters), and
Mia Farrow was born to play Hannah (the all-too-together control
freak). Add in Max Von Sydow (superb), Daniel Stern buying ART by the
yard, and Lloyd Noland Maureen O'Sullivan (Mia's real-life Mom who
played Jane in the Tarzan flicks of the 30's) are belligerent and
A 9 out of 10. Best performance = Diane Wiest. If you don't get this one, give it up (especially if you don't trust Woody Allen), check into a New Mexico motel, pretend you know Dennis Hopper in the 70's, and buy ice all night long..waiting for Karen Black.
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