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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 3 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 has written a best seller... bout his best friends... he revealed their deepest secrets... and they're not pleased... now Harry Block is going to Hell... 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:

$10,569,071, 8 March 1998
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

Woody Allen based Harry's trip on Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957). Bergman is said to be Allen's favorite director. See more »

Goofs

Harry invites Lucy to take off her coat a moment after she does so. See more »

Quotes

Harry Block: All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Daymaker (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
(1867)
Written by Modest Mussorgsky
Performed by Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (as L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande)
Conducted by Ernest Ansermet
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Tour De Force
11 December 2005 | by nelsoneddySee all my reviews

Deconstructing Harry is Woody Allen's masterpiece. The editing is unlike anything else Allen has done, full of little cuts which give the movie a level of abstraction that raises you above the narrative thread. It was instantly my favorite Allen film and has remained so ever since. Praised when it came out for its unflinching honesty, it eschews the self-glorifying cuteness of his other quasi-autobiographical movies such as Stardust Memories and Annie Hall and even Manhattan.

The main conceit of this movie is that Allen's character, writer Harry Block (get it?), meets his alter egos and other characters from his writing as though in real life. Block's characters have been modeled with almost no attempt to disguise them on his relatives and ex-relationships, which infuriates and sometimes devastates them. You have to follow very carefully to distinguish the "real life" relatives from the alter egos who spring to life from the pages of his books.

Block has many very seamy weaknesses and peccadilloes which he readily admits and indulges without remorse. His "real life" relatives and exes submit him to scathing criticism and resentment, while their "fictional" counterparts contribute a more dispassionate and omniscient commentary on Block's misdeeds and poor judgment. The cast is among Allen's most star-studded and uniformly brilliant. It's always fun to watch actors appearing in their only Allen film, and there are many here. My favorite is Billy Crystal, who plays a friend of Block's who stole his lover--and also appears as the devil giving Block the cook's tour of the tenth circle of Hell.

To maintain this complexity of voices requires brilliant writing, and Allen does not disappoint. My favorite quote is:

Doris: Your whole life, it's nihilism, it's cynicism, it's sarcasm and orgasm.

Block: You know, in France, I could run on that slogan and win.

If I were one for condescendingly dogmatic assertions, and I'm not, but if I were, I would tell you that if you do not love this movie, you are watching Woody Allen movies for the wrong reasons.

For the record, rounding out my top five Allen movies are: Mighty Aphrodite, Bullets Over Broadway, Small Time Crooks, and Stardust Memories, with honorable mention to Shadows and Fog.


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