Woody Allen has repackaged characters, themes, and even jokes from his best movies in this soggy and lackluster trifle about a young comedy writer stuck in various relationships.
This time, Allen has turned over the lead (essentially, the Woody Allen role) to American Pie’s Jason Biggs as Jerry Falk, with Christina Ricci as the alluring but maddening “can’t live with ’em; can’t figure out how to set some limits” love interest, Amanda.
Jerry cannot untangle himself from his inept agent (Danny DeVito), who takes twice the normal commission and is inexplicably attached to garment district metaphors; his analyst, a traditional Freudian who never interacts with him or offers advice; and Amanda, an unending source of agonizing announcements to torture Jerry, from her mother moving in to just not being able to have sex with him.
From Manhattan we have the Woody character in a solid, nurturing relationship but drawn to the neurotic and complicated woman his friend is dating. From Stardust Memories we have the attraction to a woman whose narcissism and instability will create great misery for him. And from Annie Hall we have the joke that sums up all romantic relationships, the non-linear, story-telling, the poignant attempt to replay the wished-for relationship, the offer of cocaine, and the New York/LA contest. But instead of ringing new changes on these themes, he just repeats them off-kilter. The result is like a fax of an oil painting.
Allen still has a way with a wisecrack and he knows how to wring laughter from agony, but nothing ever goes anywhere; he of all people should know the importance of a punchline.
Ricci has shown herself to be a brilliant comic actress in The Opposite of Sex and Addams Family Values but here she says her lines as though she’s afraid she might miss a word. In Annie Hall we fell in love with Annie as much as Alvy did, but Amanda never seems anything but self-obsessed, and unpleasant. DeVito gropes to find a comic vibe for a one-note character. Allen appears as Jerry’s mentor, a sesquipadalian teacher who smashes up the car of two huge guys who take his parking spot and who insists that Jerry keep a loaded rifle in his apartment. Please, Woody, it’s time for anything else.
Parents should know that the movie has explicit sexual references and situations and very strong language. Characters drink, smoke, and use cocaine and prescription drugs. There is comic violence and a discussion about guns.
Famillies who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Jerry to say no to the people in his life and whether it will be different in the future. What should he have done differently?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Allen’s far better movies, including the ones listed above and Sleeper.