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.
Hannah, Holly and Lee are adult sisters from a show business family, their boozy actress mother who still believes she's an ingénue that can attract any man she wants, despite still being married to the girls' father, Evan. Hannah, on her second marriage to a man named Elliot, a financial advisor, is the success of the family, taking a break from her acting career to raise her children. Everyone turns to her for advice, while she never talks to others about what she needs or feels. Her first husband, Mickey, is a comedy show writer and hypochondriac, who is going through a crisis as he mistakenly believes he will die soon without a clear belief, as a non-practicing Jew, of what will happen to him in the afterlife. Single Holly is the insecure flaky sister, a struggling and thus continually unemployed actress, who has just started a catering business with her actress friend April, in order to do something constructive with her life. In her own security, Hannah even set up Holly and ...Written by
Mia Farrow later wrote that Woody Allen had been intrigued about the subject of sisters for a long time. Janet Margolin, one of his earlier co-stars, had two sisters, Diane Keaton had two and Farrow had three. She says Allen gave her an early copy of "Hannah and Her Sisters", saying she could play whatever sister she wanted, but that "he felt I should be Hannah, the more complex and enigmatic of the sisters . . . whose stillness and internal strength he likened to the quality Al Pacino projected in The Godfather (1972)." See more »
When Hannah, Holly, and Lee meet for lunch, the camera zooms in on Holly right after they sit down, and begins to move in a circular motion around the table. When it passes behind Hannah, the shadow of the camera appears briefly on the back of her head. See more »
God, she's beautiful. She's got the prettiest eyes. She looks so sexy in that sweater. I just want to be alone with her and hold her and kiss her and tell her how much I love her and take care of her. Stop it you idiot, she's your wife's sister. But I can't help it. I'm consumed by her. It's been months now. I dream about her, I - I - I think about her at the office. Oh Lee, what am I gonna do? I hear myself moaning over you and it's disgusting. Before, when she squeezed past me at...
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Woody's more mature rumination on Manhattan life & love with an impeccable ensemble cast
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.
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