Movie Review #820: At Point A, it’s funny. By Point B, it’s no longer interesting.
By Alexander Diminiano
|Rated PG-13 (contains suggestive dialogue, mild sexual content)|
“Hollywood Ending” doesn’t start calm and develop its angst later on. It opens up in the middle of a conversation filled with angst. It jumps right to the action, wherein a neurotic film producer (Téa Leoni) still hates her ex-husband (Woody Allen) after ten years of separation, and yet it seems to her that he’s the best fit director for a script they’ve recently selected. Now let’s be clear that for anybody who knows that Woody Allen continued to work with Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, and Mia Farrow after their respective breakups with him, and that he’s already channeled this in his movies before, “Hollywood Ending” feels overly familiar. Let’s not forget that Allen is also dating someone around half his age in this movie, an incident that happens in both his life and his movies. Or the fact that his character is at war with the studios throughout the movie. That, too, has happened to Allen on several occasions.
“Hollywood Ending” doesn’t offer much that we haven’t already seen, as far as its story is concerned. But this film spotlights a stellar cast. Debra Messing, George Hamilton, Mark Rydell, and Téa Leoni are among the better known, with Barney Cheng also delivering a rather amusing first-time performance. Though the one who stands above them all is Allen himself. There’s a particularly hilarious scene during the first act of the movie in which he and Leoni are seen having dinner. Several times, he starts talking for a while about the possibilities of the film production they are both involved with. All of a sudden, he’ll change the subject mid-sentence, and instead start rambling about how he can’t believe she left him for another man (who now happens to be his boss at the studio). It’s the delightful kind of soapy scene we like to see in a Woody Allen movie.
I noticed product placement (a terribly obvious Apple computer) soon after, and that should’ve been a hint to me that the movie wasn’t as good a movie as it had started out. The movie’s plot takes a turn around the forty-minute mark, when Woody Allen’s character is diagnosed with psychosomatic blindness. He has to hide his condition from his co-workers, no matter how difficult doing so might become. He wants to keep directing the picture, but if anybody knows he’s blind, they’ll kick him off the set for good. Many individuals involved with the production notice the abnormal camera angles; they comment that the director must be the greatest since Fellini to have such a maverick style. Hearing one character make this observation is funny. Hearing the observation made several times by several characters just means the script’s running out of jokes fast.
To be completely honest, the movie revolves around the sudden blindness that plagues the director, and it feels contrived from the moment the director wakes up without vision. He’s psychosomatically blind, which is funny when the condition first appears and is diagnosed, but the joke stretches out through the whole movie. I would’ve much appreciated if the movie was instead about a director who just couldn’t handle the production with sight, because we eventually get tired of seeing people aid Woody Allen. We’re never even convinced that the condition is valid, either. While Allen portrays the condition convincingly, it seems highly unrealistic that Allen’s character would be able to keep his condition a secret for more than a week or two, particularly with how much of a klutz he becomes.
“Hollywood Ending” begins to fall apart, piece by piece, right around the forty-minute mark. It crumbles entirely with about twenty minutes remaining. At Point A, the movie’s funny, but by Point B, it’s lost our interest. Woody Allen has gone through a series of hits and misses over the last two decades, and while “Hollywood Ending” isn’t as much a miss as some (“Celebrity”, “Anything Else”, “Scoop”), it’s ultimately pretty forgettable.
Postscript: As of July 8, 2014 (the day that I wrote this review), I have seen every movie directed by Woody Allen, save for “Cassandra’s Dream” (2007), “Melinda and Melinda” (2004), “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001), “Small Time Crooks” (2000), “Everyone Says I Love You” (1996), and “New York Stories” (1989), for which he directed the “Oedipus Wrecks” segment. In other words, I’ve seen 38 of the movies he’s directed. I will, as well, be watching “Magic in the Moonlight” when it is released on July 25th.