What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the movie will seem too dated for many teens, but older kids serious about film may be interested. Though lively, witty, and watchable for older teens, parents should be cautioned that this is not a movie for kids. The movie would be at least a PG-13 -- a rating that did not exist in 1977 -- were it to appear today. Know that it's very much a product of the permissive 1970s; there is casual sex as well as drug use (a brief bit centers on cocaine). Much of the bedroom stuff is innuendo, with nothing explicitly shown, but there are zingers in the dialogue that could lead to some awkward questions from the young ones.
What's the story?
Woody Allen plays an obsessively worried comic and writer named Alvy Singer. Alvy talks right to the viewer whenever he feels like it, and he feels like telling us about his latest romantic meltdown, a breakup with a woman named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Alvy is Jewish, twice divorced, and addicted to psychotherapy, and his idea of a date movie is a four-hour Holocaust documentary. Annie has none of these qualities, but they're instantly attracted to each other's quirkiness. Alvy nurtures Annie's singing career and gets her into night classes and therapy herself, but, on the downside, he refuses to commit and soon becomes jealous of her night-school instructor. Annie, meanwhile, thinks Alvy will always look down on her for not being as intellectual as he is. Alvy and Annie go through a cycle of splits and reconciliations. The final breakup occurs when Annie's vocal talents get the attention, both romantic and professional, of a music producer (Paul Simon) based in sunny Los Angeles, a place that New Yorker Alvy loathes. Much later Alvy and Annie meet again, but only as friends, and Alvy is left to conclude that love affairs are worth the trouble and losses that, for him anyway, seem inevitable.
Is it any good?
This skillfully crafted film beat out the original Star Wars for the Best Picture Oscar. Do a thousand martyred Obi-Wan Kenobi action figures cry out for revenge? No, because ANNIE HALL really is a masterwork and an even more impressive one when you consider it didn't trigger a flood of Lucas-esque copycats (except in a fad for Annie Hall-inspired mismatched-wardrobe ensembles). Woody Allen's sophisticated take on relationships is lively and fleet enough (complete with an animated interlude that parodies Disney) to amuse adolescents in particular. Doubtless, though, it would be PG-13 -- a rating that did not exist in 1977 -- were it to appear today.
Woody Allen's long career has had different stages. Around the time Annie Hall was made, Allen was transitioning from broad, slapstick-heavy spoofs such as Sleeper and Bananas toward more personal, introspective comedies and dramas. Annie Hall may not have giant chickens or silly robot costumes, but it retains a plethora of one-liners and hilarious, attention-getting narrative devices, such as flashbacks that allow the adult Woody to sit in on his elementary-school days and argue Freud with the exasperated kids in his old homeroom. As a moralist, Allen -- too obviously -- has few solutions. But he asks many pointed questions. In one of a series of person-on-the-street interviews Alvy asks a couple who are content with each other what their secret is. They declare that they're shallow and stupid.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about whether this '70s classic is still relevant or not.
How have "relationship movies" changed over time?
What are the hallmarks of Woody Allen's style of filmmaking?
The late musician Frank Zappa held the opinion that the smarter you are, the unhappier you are. You could discuss this notion with kids; hopefully it won't provide them with the best excuse yet for failing grades.