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Deconstructing Harry (1997)

R | | Comedy | 2 January 1998 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Woody Allen

Writer:

Woody Allen
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Judy Davis ... Lucy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus ... Leslie
Stephanie Roth Haberle ... Janet (as Stephanie Roth)
Dan Frazer ... Janet's Dad
Joel Leffert Joel Leffert ... Norman
Lynn Cohen ... Janet's Mom
Richard Benjamin ... Ken
Joe Buck ... Yankee Announcer (voice)
Jane Hoffman Jane Hoffman ... Grandma
Woody Allen ... Harry Block
Tobey Maguire ... Harvey Stern
Annette Arnold Annette Arnold ... Rosalee
Frederick Rolf Frederick Rolf ... Harvey's Doctor
Elisabeth Kieselstein-Cord ... Rosalee's Sister
Lortensia Hayes Lortensia Hayes ... Jennifer
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Storyline

Harry Block is a well-regarded novelist whose tendency to thinly-veil his own experiences in his work, as well as his un-apologetic attitude and his proclivity for pills and whores, has left him with three ex-wives that hate him. As he is about to be honored for his writing by the college that expelled him, he faces writer's block and the impending marriage of his latest flame to a writer friend. As scenes from his stories and novels pass and interact with him, Harry faces the people whose lives he has affected - wives, lovers, his son, his sister. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Harry Block wrote a bestseller about his best friends. Now, his best friends are about to become his worst enemies. See more »

Genres:

Comedy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Fine Line Features

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Hebrew

Release Date:

2 January 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Meanest Man in the World See more »

Filming Locations:

Tuxedo, New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$356,476, 14 December 1997, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$10,686,841

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$23,367,935
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR (Mono)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Demi Moore wore a wig in the film because she'd shaved her head for G.I. Jane (1997). See more »

Goofs

In Harry's line "I once almost ran over a book critic..." the word "book" doesn't match his lips; "book" is dubbed over what looks to be "film." See more »

Quotes

Doris: You're a self-hating jew.
Harry Block: Hey, I may hate myself but not 'cause I'm jewish.
See more »

Connections

References Sesame Street (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

All the Things You Are
(1939)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Performed by Art Tatum-Ben Webster Quartet
Featuring George 'Red' Callender (as Red Callendar) and Bill Douglass (as Bill Douglas)
See more »

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User Reviews

Really funny, but also really bitter and full of apparent self-loathing
31 January 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Harry Block is a writer who tends to thinly veil his won life in his art. His tendency to mock his friends and family through similar characters in his work has left him with three ex-wives and a huge number of people who hate him. He lives a lonely life and has a penchant for pills and whore (prostitution being pure and totally free of BS). When his college plans to honour him he finds he has no-one who wants to go with him, so he ‘kidnaps' his son, a black whore and an old friend with him. As the characters from his work come and go around him, he finds that he struggles to make amends with those around him and decides than he can only be happy in his work.

This is a fantastic Woody Allen film, and his only film to be rated 18 in the UK. The story seems to be a very clear, very personal attack on himself. It's like Allen is using a fictional story (going to be honoured by his college) to lay himself bare. Certainly Block's habit for using his own life in his work seems to echo accusations towards Allen in real life. At times this makes the film really hard to watch, some scenes are so full of apparent self-loathing and bile that it's hard to laugh. Happily the film is hilarious all the way through - this is not one of Allen's arty, serious films. It should be said that Allen denies that this is as personal as it appears but it is easy to see why it is seen as a personal attack on himself.

The film's main story is littered with scenes from Block's work that demonstrate how he has used his characters to mock others and to portray himself - Robin Williams is the best as the artist that literally lacks focus and Crystal is hellishly good. The story's moral about art and life is not as clear or as clever as it thinks it is, but it's very, very funny and the level of bile Allen appears to be spitting at himself is very interesting to observe.

Allen is great in the central role, but you do occasionally feel like you should look away at times because he appears to be giving himself a real kicking. The rest of the cast is really good and is full of famous faces ranging from big stars (Moore, Crystal, Alley, Williams) to familiar faces (Maguire, Bogosian, Louis-Dreyfus, Shue, Tucci). As a director Allen does some new tricks to make this feel even more different from his other films, but the jump cuts etc are a little tiresome. The most important character to me is Cookie. She is significant because Allen has not really ever created a good black character (even if she is a prostitute).

Overall this is a really funny film. The degree of vitriol that Allen appears to aim towards himself makes this a little less enjoyable but overall it is a great film.


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