Review by Michael Jacobson
Woody Allen, George Hamilton, Tea Leoni, Debra Messing, Mark Rydell,
Tiffani Thiessen, Treat Williams
Director: Woody Allen
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer, Talent Files, Production Notes
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: September 17, 2002
I love Val. I love him.
But with all due respect, he’s a raving, incompetent psychotic.”
is NOT incompetent!”
are surprised when I say that after the passing of Stanley Kubrick, I consider
Woody Allen to be America’s greatest filmmaker. The Woodman has a penchant for both comedy and drama,
creating wonderful characters that get inside our hearts and minds.
Sometimes he stretches the bounds of comedy, proving that just because
material is funny, it doesn’t mean it can’t be cinematic.
Other times, he makes more lighthearted films that aren’t
groundbreaking…simply funny and entertaining.
one of the latter, and also one of his best and funniest offerings of the last
several years. I think most people,
whether or not fans of Allen, will find this a hysterical picture.
But fans will enjoy it even more, because part of the fun of the movie is
his willingness to kid himself, or at least his public persona.
plays Val Waxman, a once acclaimed director and double Oscar winner whose
neuroses and attention to artistic detail has brought him a string of bad luck.
He’s hit bottom so badly that he’s filming a deodorant commercial in
Canada when a dream project, and a chance at critical and box office redemption,
comes to him.
project? A chance to make a film in
and about New York. The drawback?
It’s being offered to him by his ex-wife, Ellie (Leoni), and her studio
boss, Hal (Williams), who also happens to be the man she dumped Val for!
The ground between Val and Hal is shaky at best, with poor Ellie having
to serve as constant mediator for them!
of me wants it so badly,” Val intones. The
other part? “Also wants it.
That’s the problem.” The
first meeting doesn’t go as well as it could, with Val’s request for filming
in black and white shot down. “New
York is a black and white town,” he pleads…and Woody should know; he made
probably the quintessential black and white New York film himself with Manhattan.
He IS conceded a foreign cameraman; again, a typical Woody Allen
trait: he’s worked with some of
the best cameramen outside of the United States in his career.
really wants or trusts Val, but he gets the job because of Ellie’s insistence
that he’s the perfect director for the film.
It’s clear with their first post-hiring get-together, though, that
there are issues to be resolved. In
a funny bar scene, Val can’t keep from referring to their break-up while
discussing the production!
stuff so far, but the coup de grace is still to come. Wrecked by nerves and neuroses as the first day of shooting
approaches, Val goes psychosomatically blind!
But at the insistence of his agent, Al (Rydell), he realizes if he backs
out because of this mentally triggered condition, he’ll never get another shot
at professional redemption. So the
trick becomes…how do you direct a film you can’t see, and how do you keep
your entire cast and crew from learning the truth, particularly Ellie, whose
neck is on the line just as much as Val’s?
Allen is a writer who never ceases to make me laugh, and Hollywood Ending should
be considered one of his funniest screenplays.
By using a simple concept of a blind film director, he manages to inject
his story with pratfalls, satire, situational humor, and obvious personal
comments about the state of the Hollywood system. The ending, which I will not reveal, is a helluva funny
payoff for any audience member, but devoted fans of the Woodman will also
appreciate one of his best inside jokes ever offered!
with any Allen film, his cast is first rate.
Tea Leoni, as Ellie, has arguably never been better.
Debra Messing turns in another memorably airheaded performance as Val’s
flaky girlfriend, Lori. Tiffani
Thiessen adds electrifying sex appeal with only a few moments of screen time,
and Mark Rydell, a noted director in his own right, is funny and perfect as
Val’s longsuffering agent.
be remembered for breaking ground the way Allen did with Annie Hall or Manhattan,
or for being as stylistic as Everyone Says I Love You or Shadows
and Fog, but it should be remembered as a modern comic gem, and one of the
Woodman’s funniest scripts, which is saying quite a lot.
never seems to disappoint with their anamorphic transfers, and Hollywood
Ending is a beautiful looking disc with a distinct visual style.
First time Allen cinematographer Wedigo von Schultzendorff (a foreign
cameraman!) creates golden toned imagery that gives the movie a classic
Hollywood feel despite the modern setting.
The overall effect is similar to that of Allen’s previous effort, The
Curse of the Jade Scorpion (also on DVD from Dreamworks), but is even
prettier here. Colors are vibrant
and rich, with heightened tones, and images are crisply rendered from start to
finish. An absolute viewing
with all Woody Allen films, the soundtrack is mono, but this is still a fairly
lively offering, made better by his choice of classic songs to accompany the
picture. Dialogue is clean and
clear throughout, and dynamic range is fairly good as well.
Woody never looks at his films again once completed, his DVDs don’t get a lot
of extras. Included here is the
original trailer, production notes, and talent files divided into cast and crew.
simply one of America’s premiere funnymen doing what he does best:
being funny. This is a witty, satirical chuckle fest that should please
most audiences, but fans of Woody Allen even more so.