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What's the story?
Movie director who Val (Woody Allen) is brilliant but so neurotic that no one will work with him. His ex-wife, Ellie (Tea Leoni) arranges for him to have one last chance to direct -- a movie set in New York that seems perfect for him. Her new boyfriend Hal (Treat Williams) is reluctant to trust Val with a $60 million movie, but he goes along with it because he trusts Ellie to keep Val under control. But just before the film is supposed to begin shooting, Val develops hysterical blindness. He's persuaded by his agent to go ahead and make the movie. The only people who know the truth are Al and a Chinese student hired to translate for the cameraman, who does not speak English. Despite the fact that the director never looks anyone in the eye and his directions make no sense, everyone keeps talking about his artistic "vision" and his leading lady tells him that she loves the way he looks at her. Various mix-ups and pratfalls later, the movie turns out to be a mess, but there is indeed a Hollywood ending and almost everyone lives happily ever after.
Is it any good?
Woody Allen's films seem to get more wispy and ephemeral every year; for all its small pleasures, HOLLYWOOD ENDING is so light it nearly floats off the screen. Allen gets a lot of credit for poking fun at his own reputation, and there are a couple of hilarious movie industry jokes. The movie has some great lines and some funny scenes, especially when Val and Ellie get together for their first business meeting and it keeps exploding into recrimination about their divorce. Will and Grace's Deborah Messing is delicious as Val's airhead girlfriend, who does leg stretches while she talks on the phone and whose only response to hearing that he is breaking up with her is, "Am I still in the movie?"
Overall, though, Hollywood Ending feels a little tired. Not one character is as distinctive as any of Anne Hall's family members or the robots in Sleeper. This is middle of the road Woody Allen -- a pleasant diversion for his fans, but it won't make any new ones.
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