A director is forced to work with his ex-wife, who left him for the boss of the studio bankrolling his new film. But the night before the first day of shooting, he develops a case of psychosomatic blindness.
Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling books as characters, real and fictional, come back to haunt him.
Over a meal in a French restaurant, Sy poses a conundrum to his fellow diners: Is the essence of life comic or tragic? For the sake of argument, he tells a story, which the others then embellish to illustrate their takes on life. The story starts as follows: A young Manhattan couple, Park Avenue princess Laurel and tippling actor Lee, throw a dinner party to impress Lee's would-be producer when their long-lost friend Melinda appears at their front door, bedraggled and woebegone. In the tragic version of what happens next, the beautiful intruder is a disturbed woman who got bored with her Midwestern doctor-husband and dumped him for a photographer. Her husband took the children away and she spiraled into a suicidal depression that landed her straight-jacketed in a mental ward. In the comic version, Melinda is childless and a downstairs neighbor to the dinner hosts, who are ambitious Indy filmmaker Susan and under-employed actor Hobie. Back and forth the stories go, contrasting the ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Manhattan still drives Woody Allen crazy: Urbanites are prey to ambition and lust, pride and diffidence and even sound like Woody with their halting sentences, paranoid affectations, and occasionally witty lines tossed off like the dregs of their grande lattes. It's a petting zoo of needy moderns who most of all want to find love, which eludes them right up to the last cliffhanging moment.
Alvy Singer and Annie Hall are the best known of Allen's angst-ridden city dwellers, but the new Woodies are every bit as screwed up if not more knowing about the quagmires their marriages and professions have become. The setup is twin parallel stories starting from the same incident reflecting separately the tragic and the comic possibilities.
It all begins with a discussion at a restaurant table among four sophisticates about life being either tragic or comic. Sy (Wallace Shawn), a comedy writer, argues that people need laughter to overcome life's essential pain (difficult to separate Shawn from the memory of his discussion in "My Dinner with Andre"). Max (Larry Pine) says that life is absurd and therefore tragic. So each tells the same story differently about an uninvited guest, one story a romantic comedy, the other a tragic tale of a desperate loner.
Will Farrell as a neurotic husband does the best fax Allen yet in his films. His lines are vintage Woody, tossed-off self-deprecation with a worldly wise guy subtext. One of the best lines comes from Susan (Amanda Peet), a director, who discloses the title of her newest film, "The Castration Sonata," putting "male sexuality in perspective." The Woodman returns in fine form to take on Aristotle and try to fulfill his own hope over a quarter century ago when he said, "If my film makes one more person miserable, I'll feel I've done my job." His tragedy has such ample comedy, I predict you won't be miserable.
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