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Hollywood Ending
by david    May 6, 2002

So, I didn't see Spider-Man this weekend. Based upon it's record shattering $100-million-plus opening weekend, apparently I'm the only one in America who did not. Thing is, my weekend was full-to-bursting until Sunday evening, and I'd planned to go with a bunch of folks that night. By that time, though, most all of my friends had already seen it, so we went to Woody Allen's new movie, Hollywood Ending, instead.

I don't know what to say. I guess you don't have to have spidey-sense to warn you that, lately, Allen's movies are hit or miss. There are some pleasing things to be found in Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity, despite their obvious shortcomings. Small-Time Crooks was surprising, and Sweet and Lowdown was a fabulous, fabulous film. But Curse of the Jade Scorpion was just plain poor, and, while I may be in the minority on this, I despised both Bullets Over Broadway and Mighty Aphrodite. In fact, apart from Sweet and Lowdown, the last Woody Allen film I really loved was Manhattan Murder Mystery, so I should have perhaps been more wary. Instead, I took the very funny previews (and the presence of one of my favorite actresses, Tiffani Thiessen [stop your laughing now, you bastards]) at face value, and went in expecting to love the movie.

A quick summary: Woody Allen plays an aging, washed-up film director who's ex-wife (Tea Leoni) is a Hollywood producer who helps him by getting him on her first big project. The weekend before the shoot begins, Allen suddenly and mysteriously loses his sight. Not wanting to lose his big break, he endeavors to hide his ailment, and directs the film blind. Hilarity, supposedly, ensues.

The best things about this movie were the Pink's hotdog, two chocolate bars, and very buttery popcorn I ate during it (I'm going through a "binge" cycle right now). Actually, that's too harsh. There are, honestly, quite a few really funny moments in the film, and a few entirely funny scenes. Allen, as always, delivers his one-liners and nervous banter to great effect. Tea Leoni, Debra Messing, Treat Williams and, yes, Tiffani Thiessen are all quite good, Leoni especially. And Mark Webber, as Allen's estranged son, is very pleasant. But, for every funny scene, there are at least three terribly dull ones, and one that seems to be entirely out of place in the film. For every tight, coherent scene, there are two that meander aimlessly, and linger far beyond their necessary time. For every good actor, there are two who barely manage to get their lines out, or over-act like a Goth high-schooler reading Sylvia Plath at a Poetry Interpretation competition. Jodie Markell, as the journalist working on a "behind the scenes" piece on the film, is especially repugnant. I think the crew on the International Space Station could read her facial expressions from their vantage point.

What else? The plot seemed simple enough initially, though not quite enough to hang an entire 2-hour movie upon. Allen appears to have agreed with me on that, since 3/4 of the way through, he introduces a new major character and a subplot that never really goes anywhere. The production values are fine. The directing is a bit odd at times -- some typical Allen stuff that I enjoy: cameras set in one place while actors move in and out of frame, etc. Sometimes angles seemed a bit off on Allen's close-ups, but it's primarily because, since his character is blind, he's often looking in the wrong direction during a given conversation. Wardrobe needs to be given a nod -- I just wanna thank whoever picked out Tiffani's bra. Seriously, thank you.

I don't know -- this movie just wasn't what I'd hoped. Afterwards, I thought maybe it was one big self-referential joke: a jumbled, sometimes nonsensical Hollywood film about making a jumbled, nonsensical Hollywood film. But, as my good buddy Rick (CSP's newest writer) said, "Woody Allen making a joke about me paying $10 to see his movie? I'm not laughing."

Neither am I.

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