A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Husbands and Wives is a 1992 Woody Allen movie that looks at marriage and frankly discusses adulterous sexual longings, orgasms, impotence, threesomes, lesbian sex, sex with prostitutes, and other intimate details of married life. Adult characters smoke and drink alcohol. A couple is seen, fuzzily and briefly, making love in the dark, and a woman's nipple can be vaguely glimpsed. A man drags his younger girlfriend out of a party and wrestles her, kicking and screaming, into his car. Later he makes her wait in the car while he goes to his ex-wife to plead to be taken back. Couples throw hurtful zingers at each other. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," as well as other salty language. The mature themes and content makes this best for older teens and up.
What's the story?
In what seems to be a documentary-within-the-film about adultery, a long-married upper-middle-class man and wife announce casually to their best friends that they are breaking up amicably, and the shock destroys the other couple's marriage. The moment the first spouses express their decision to move on and explore being single again, the wife in the second marriage begins questioning all her buried resentments and longings. She has a secret crush on a coworker. She has always wanted a child but her husband doesn't. She feels overly criticized and at the same time ignored by her husband, who is a professor surrounded by pretty, bright, and adoring college girls. As they both focus on yearnings for other partners, which will ultimately break them apart, the first couple, whiny and self-absorbed as ever, get back together, accepting each other's flaws.
Is it any good?
There is something both exhilarating and false about the pseudo-cinema verité style of director-writer Woody Allen's relationship dramedy. Contrived, overlapping dialogue, faltering improvisations, jump cuts, and whirling cinematography all give an attentive viewer a dose of both visual and mental whiplash and a sense that everyone in this movie is trying too hard. You can see the actors straining to be "in the moment" as they consciously interrupt each other while at the same time remembering to stick to the objective of each scene. Some performances rise above the noise. Judy Davis' neurotic and condescending Sally is impressive, if a little wearing. Allen, as prolific and thoughtful as he has been over a career spanning decades, does not wear well in this instance. His "insights" now seem banal -- recognizing that married couples must compromise, that no one's perfect, and that sexual longings are universal but not necessarily beneficial when acted upon. Allen still comes up with some great lines. He chides his friend for moving in with a woman he thinks of as a bimbo, adding, "It's like your IQ suddenly went into remission." But overall, it's difficult to root for anyone here, as the characters are mostly over-privileged, self-absorbed preeners who congratulate themselves for their taste and refinement and lament how tough their lives are to psychiatrists and each other.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to have unreasonable expectations of other people. Does the movie think that the spouses want too much from their partners?
Does the movie suggest that people look for reassurances in their spouses because their own egos are fragile and they have insecurities?
How would you define a good marriage?
How does this movie compare to other Woody Allen movies you've seen?
- In theaters: July 25, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: January 1, 2002
- Cast: Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Mia Farrow, Sidney Pollack, Liam Neeson, Juliette Lewis
- Director: Woody Allen
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Language and a scene of sexuality
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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