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Worth A Look: 33.33%
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Pretty Crappy: 7.41%
Sucks: 7.41%

1 review, 21 user ratings

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Hannah and her Sisters
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by Natasha Theobald

"This review of a Woody Allen film contains no mention of neuroses."
4 stars

After 9/11, I remember "Serendipity" being sold as a love letter to New York. If you really want to see passion for the character and charm of the city, you could not, in all probability, do better than this movie. It made me nostalgic for a time and place I never knew. This is the New York of a bygone era, and the memory of it is now somewhat bittersweet.

Hannah was a successful stage actress before leaving work for more domestic pursuits. She now takes care of her family and cooks big holiday dinners. She also spends a lot of time trying to sort out other people's problems, from fixing her sister up with her ex-husband to drying her mother out. She gives freely of her time, her money, and herself. She sees what needs to be done for everyone else but isn't able to easily dispense of the trouble looming at her own gate. Hannah is a perfectionist, and the rest of the family exists in her wake.

Sister number one is Holly. Holly is an aspiring actress, but things aren't going too well in that arena. She borrows money from Hannah to start a catering business with fellow aspiring actress, April. She is single and interested in finding someone to share her time and her dreams. She has fought drug addiction and desperately wants to earn back the respect of her family with her newfound sobriety.

Lee is the other sister. She is in a relationship with a man who deems himself her cultural educator, and it is starting to feel stifling and unrewarding. She lacks direction, having been used to following someone else's lead. Attractive and interesting, she enjoys the attention of men. The most recent attentive man comes in the form of Hannah's husband, Elliot, with whom she shares a love for music and poetry.

Mickey is Hannah's ex-husband. He is a hypochondriac who might actually be sick. Being forced in this way to confront his mortality, Mickey is searching for meaning in life, grappling with questions of life and death. He begins to explore different religions and ideas, hopelessly drifting in search of an anchor. He feels his life passing by without any real purpose or promise. He desires change and challenge but doesn't know what form they may take.

This is a Woody Allen film marked by the qualities for which his work is best loved. The tapestry of these and more characters is interwoven with exquisite music and a loving depiction of New York City's architecture and life. The characters that inhabit this moneyed, urbane existence are complex and rich, filled with conflicting emotions and unwise decisions, just like the rest of us. They struggle and fail and move on. Even at their lowest points, there is always a fragment of hope or optimism underlying the pain or fear or worry. There is a resilience that lets light into the darker moments.

The cast is universally wonderful to watch. Mia Farrow is Hannah, flanked by sisters Barbara Hershey as Lee and Dianne Wiest as Holly. The three women are different but not easily categorized, not given to types, which is a great strength of the writing and acting. You feel for them and understand them in a very real way, particularly Wiest, who makes Holly's flaws and foibles more reason to love her. Michael Caine is Elliot, the husband who acts impulsively and suffers the consequences complacently. The audience is privy to the thoughts of the characters, and this is most enjoyable in Caine's scenes. One feels the voyeur, hearing the private rationalizations and scandalous secrets that inhabit the realm of an uncensored mind at play. Woody Allen is very funny and sympathetic as Mickey. No one delivers the lines like the man himself. I could go on and on, as the smallest of parts are peopled with great actors whose names and faces are readily familiar, especially a couple of decades later. It makes for great people watching to catch some of my favorite actors pre-limelight.

When people invoke the name of Woody Allen, this is the kind of filmmaking they are talking about. It is very personal while still being utterly accessible. There is a strong, individual voice, but its pitch and resonance are without restriction.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2183&reviewer=317
originally posted: 07/24/02 13:43:18
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User Comments

10/21/15 David Hollingsworth Wonderfully witty observation on love and life 5 stars
11/23/08 Samantha Pruitt very funny and touching movie, great story and characters 5 stars
2/24/06 Bert Kaplan a wonderful Woody, funny, poignant, real 5 stars
11/29/05 Indrid Cold Richer and more satisfying than Annie Hall or Manhattan; the gold standard for "dramedy." 5 stars
10/31/05 Jin Good examination of single life. Incredibly deep. 5 stars
7/15/04 muhyadinali@yahoo.co.nz IT'S very humerous 2 stars
10/09/03 sarah olsen hated it 1 stars
9/24/03 fern woody's best. i love this story!! 5 stars
6/17/03 Andrew Callaway Incredibly good. If you saw this movie thinking it will be Bananas you will be dissapointed 5 stars
5/31/03 Annie Hall's Pimp I've seen two dozen Allen movies so far, but this one is still his absolute best. Perfect 5 stars
5/11/03 Jack Bourbon One of Woody's best. 5 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Allen never ever Shuts Up! Meaningless tosh. 1 stars
11/26/02 Zack W. Young Annie Hall, Interiors, and Manhattan were all brilliant; but this film tops them all. 5 stars
7/24/02 Charles Tatum One of Allen's most accessible films 4 stars
4/15/02 R.W. Welch More Urban Angst from Woody, not quite up to Annie Hall but close. 4 stars
1/21/02 Solo4 Brilliant, complex, profound the very best from Woody Allen along with Annie Hall 5 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden You Have To Look Closer To Find It's Goodness. 5 stars
10/08/01 Adam Another genius film from Americas most cerebral auteur. Great on every level. Brilliant. 5 stars
7/27/01 Henry Ginsberg Over rated .Meachel Cain is a complete penis . 2 stars
8/26/99 LushZero one of the best woody allen movie from the 80s, second to crimes and misdemeanors 4 stars
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