Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

I finally got around to watching one of the many films I have blind bought at a local dollar store, which offers some good movies for only $3 a pop. For example, I've bought Anna Christie, Ninotchka, Queen Christina, Capote, Gosford Park, Funny Girl, A Man for All Seasons, My Man Godfrey, Cimarron, and Grand Hotel. The only problem is finding time to watch all of them, but hopefully with this Woody Allen classic, I'll start a habit of tackling the massive venture before me.

Anyway, Hannah and Her Sisters is the story of Hannah (Mia Farrow) and (surprise) her sisters Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Diane Weist), as well as Hannah's husband Elliot who is in love with Lee, and Hannah's ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen). The film itself is presented in a vignette style, without a real concrete plot (besides Elliot's love of Lee and Mickey's existential crisis) going throughout the film, instead we are treated to small glimpses into the lives of these three people. Hannah is the backbone of the family, a woman enjoying her life as a mother, wife and occasional actress, she is independent and strong, which unfortunately, causes her family to resent her. Lee is the more emotional, down-to-earth sister, who is in a 5 year relationship with Frederick (Max Von Sydow), an artist who's distaste for people has caused him to practically withdraw from the world, with Lee as his only link to the outside. Holly is the flighty sister, venturing from one vocation to another, she's an actress, a singer, a caterer, a writer, and she's also a former drug addict. She's lonely and Dianne Weist totally breaks your heart as she wishes to somehow obtain what Hannah has secured for herself.

There's also Elliot, Hannah's second husband who has a burning love for Lee, wanting to hold her and "protect her" and watching his clumsy flirtations with his wife's sister is both funny, sad, and awkward. As is Mickey's crisis of faith. After hearing loss in one ear causes a doctor to suspect a brain tumor, Mickey begins a quest to try and find God, determining that he does not want to live in a world with a "Maybe".

The acting in the film is great, with Michael Caine and Dianne Weist giving Oscar-winning performances. So while I don't need to speak much about them, since they deserved the awards. which speak for themselves, I want to talk about Mia Farrow and Barbara Hershey. Mia Farrow is given the thankless role of Hannah, which she excels in, exuding strength and calm. It's easily the least showy part of the film, and Farrow allows herself to become an emotional center to the film and her presence is felt throughout the entire film.

Barbara Hershey has one great scene in this movie, I'm not saying it's because she isn't good, it's because her character is mostly relegated to being the "straight" person, people get to be neurotic and flighty around her without her getting a chance to do much of anything. But in the scene where she breaks up with her boyfriend, she allows herself to be full of guilt and sorrow, leaving a man who needs her and without her will be sentenced to a life on the outside of the human race.

The script is touching and funny, it's never "hilarious", but it's something that can make you chuckle at the humanity and flaws of its characters. Allen is a master at blending sincere humanity with humor and he does it again here, creating realistic people who act like adults, never sacrificing characters for plot or comedy. It's a brilliant script.

The film is something I heartily recommend, especially for those who enjoy Allen's other films like Annie Hall. And for everyone else, it's a touching, human comedy that has become an 80's classic (for the right reasons).

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