Movie Review #756
Directed by Woody Allen. Written by Woody Allen. Produced by Charles H. Joffe – A Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Production. (Uncredited: Jack Rollins.) Starring Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Kristin Griffith, Mary Beth Hurt, Richard Jordan, E.G. Marshall, and Sam Waterston. Cameos: Missy Hope, Kerry Duffy, Nancy Collins, Penny Gaston, Roger Morden, Henderson Forsythe. Distributed by United Artists, entertainment from Transamerica Corporation, in wide release on August 2, 1978. Rated PG. Runs 93 minutes.
If there’s any ideal that sets “Interiors” into motion, it’s the domino effect. One tragedy happens and that leads to a continuous, uniform pattern of tragedies. There is absolutely no happiness in this movie, so if you’re looking for an upbeat movie, I’d recommend anything else that Woody Allen has directed. But if you’re looking for a downbeat movie, they hardly ever get better than this.
The story is set around a man, his wife, and his three daughters. One of his daughters is engaged, one is married. The one who is engaged shares her home with her mother, who hates her fiancé. The patriarch in all of this is the catalyst, but his action is expected by the daughters. He decides, after much thought, that he will live on his own. He tells his wife this will be a temporary leave, for the sake of letting her down easily, but it’s a permanent divorce. Regardless of how softly he has pitched this to his wife, she is heartbroken, devastated, and manic by the thought that she will have to live alone for any amount of time.
Woody Allen wasn’t sure this premise would even become a successful movie. It’s a deep, dark, harrowing drama, after a long stream of thorough comedy, most of which was lighthearted and slapstick. Even nowadays, Woody still hasn’t given us a film like it. Most Woody Allen movies, to me, feel like they’re an attempt to turn the “soap opera” on its head. But “Interiors” turns the Woody Allen movie on its head, and in a way that could not be more solemn.
“Interiors” is bookmarked with great performances. Diane Keaton (who suggested the title) seems to stand out most of all. She plays Renata, the wisest and least appreciated of the daughters. However her rivalry with Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) is more of a central concern to their father than their mother’s self-inflicted harm. Keaton’s delivery in the role makes for a very poignant slice of life, and Hurt’s performance is only an extra dosage of grief.
What makes the film most beautiful, though, is the cinematography. This is Gordon Willis’s finest achievement, and sadly, his most underrated. With all due respect to “The Godfather” and “Annie Hall”, the man has never made a powerful movie so much more powerful; not like he has here. That final shot of the three sisters gazing out the window gives definition to the last lines:
Joey: “The water’s so calm.”
Renata: “Yes, it’s very peaceful.”
It’s hard to explain how the shot works so well without presenting the entire story, perhaps the entire film. There’s so much that this line wraps up in the movie, and the camera captures it perfectly.
And let’s take a quick look at the quote for the power that it has. It’s true that the water is calm. The women have been through so much grief that they long to look at something calm. Finally Joey and Renata can agree on something, even if it’s something so small. But in reality, the water is all that is calm right now. Life goes on between the three of them, and if all the suffering they’ve just gone through means anything, things will only get worse. This is not a happy ending, nor is it a happy movie. But it is a terrific ending to a terrific movie. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano