Sunday, 27 April 2014

Review: Hannah and Her Sisters

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) is one of Woody Allen's most famous and praised films as far as I tell - Siskel and Ebert certainly praised it in their review. It seems to be up there with Manhattan and Annie Hall, which I guess isn't surprising since the script won an award. 

Nonetheless, I have to say that this film didn't really grab me. Perhaps its tiredness on my part - and I know I am tired - but still it just seemed, well a bit boring. 

This doesn't mean the film isn't well done, or didn't have its moments. There's a brilliant shot of the sisters round a table, with the camera roting round their faces in close-up as they speak, and a great scene where Micky (aka Allen) appears to have gone out and bought Catholicism along with a loaf of bread and a jar of mayo. I also thought they were some brilliant lines and jokes in it, some really excellent ones, as well a couple of rather thoughtful monologues on life and death. This is also the first film I've seen Carrie Fisher act in where she isn't dating Hans Solo. And I'm going to have check this up, but did Frasier get their one line interludes idea from this film?

Despite all these points though the whole film felt a little tepid. Maybe its because I was expecting slightly more romance, sexiness or energy, and this is more of an analysis of mature relationships, of the complex and messy muddle human hearts can get themselves into. 

But I'm skipping ahead a bit, the films basically follows two stories. One centres around Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her sisters, but mostly about her sister Lea (Barbara Hershey) and her husband Elliot, who is love with her. Over the course of the film he admits these feelings to Lea but this only creates emotional complications, as Elliot (Michael Caine) seems unable to leave Hannah. Meanwhile, Hannah's hypochondriac ex-husband Micky (surprise, Woody Allen), goes on a journey of trying to understand life and death after his doctors become concerned about a slightly deaf ear, that at worst, may indicate a brain tumour. 

This second story line, though it created some funny scenes and some profound thoughts, I personally thought was a little wearying. I know the topic of life and death is a favourite of Allen's - or rather death particularly - but montages of Micky being tested and then him agonising was just a bit much for me this time. 

This might have been better if the second story was more upbeat, but instead everywhere characters seemed to be mentally wringing their hands. Elliot in particular, though not an intentionally mean character, was so indecisive and somewhat selfish I'd had enough of him by the end - kudos to Michael Caine for proving his flexibility as an actor though. 

The film ends happily enough, and the last line is a corker, but personally this is not one of my favourite Allen films. Again this might merely because I've seen quite a few now and recurring traits of Allen's films are starting to simply bore me - or maybe I might want another of his films and really like it, like I did with A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982). Maybe in a week or so, I'll think back and change my mind - like I did with Hot Fuzz (2007) and Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). It was only hindsight and thinking about the scenes again that I realised I really rather liked them, or in Hot Fuzz's case, found it really rather awesome. 

In summary

The popular Hannah and Her Sisters is a solid piece of Woody Allen cinema, with a cast of wonderful actors, including familiar faces and some excellent appearances by Carrie Fisher and Michael Caine, and some fantastic quick jokes. On the whole though I personally found it rather underwhelming, and its rather serious and contemplative tone a little dull. 

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