I Have Never Seen Annie Hall

By  · Published on September 11th, 2014

United Artists

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.

Not only had I never seen Annie Hall before this week, I’d never seen any Woody Allen films whatsoever, which is kind of weird because I apparently share his sense of humor (or so I’ve been told). People have asked me if I’m a fan of his and I always have to tell them no. Not out of any kind of objection to his work, but just because I’d never sat down to watch any of it.

The one thing I’d ever seen him in was the old version of Casino Royale, which was… I don’t think we’ve even invented words for what that movie was. Anyway, it’s not a great introduction for him. And, in fact, Annie Hall isn’t necessarily one either. It was his first “serious” film, since his oeuvre before that was primarily spoofs. The switch, apparently, is quite dramatic.

And it’s funny, because Annie Hall was meant to be a dramatic murder mystery with a romantic subplot. Allen slowly dropped more and more of the main plot (this was purportedly after he’d already shot quite a bit of it) until just the romantic subplot was left. And then he and his editor took the whole thing, threw it in random order and won some Oscars (which probably inspired Quinten Tarantino to do the same thing 17 years later).

What came out of that editing bay is, essentially, the beginning of so many other things. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl has her origins in Annie, who, while being far more human than your standard MPDG, is still a woman with quirky characteristics (she keeps a half-eaten sandwich in her car! And wears ties!) which help her attract the male lead. They have fun for a while, but he has trouble understanding her and dealing with her free spirit so they break up. Garden State is essentially a remake of this movie with a nerdy soundtrack.

Another huge descendant of the film is a quirky, critically acclaimed and award winning piece fronted by a middle-aged comedian – Louie. Over the top, surreal vignettes, fourth-wall-breaking sequences, celebrity cameos (yes, that is Christopher Walken/Shelley Duvall/Jeff Goldblum/Sigourney Weaver. No, that’s not Harold Ramis. I know, I thought so, too). It’s all there.

I’m not knocking Louis CK for ripping it off, either. He does a great job with it, and it works with his style perfectly. After all, isn’t he our generation’s Woody Allen? (I guess?)

After almost 40 years, Annie Hall holds up well, and except for Paul Simon’s haircut and some of the wardrobe choices, it doesn’t feel dated in any real way. It feels like an authentic love story, and I mean that literally. It’s not a fairy tale “love story” where they meet cute and everything is perfect until they have one fight and then get back together at the airport in the rain. Woody Allen is an asshole, and Diane Keaton is career bound. They try to hang on to it for as long as they can, but it ends, as most relationships do, in a bittersweet fashion. (Except mine, which always end with the releasing of thousands of doves and a ritualistic chant atop a high, isolated mountain. Look, we deal with things in our own ways.)

In the film’s epilogue, you feel like the relationship is almost forgotten. That it’s simply evaporated. They get together and reminisce over lunch, but it’s clear they’ve both moved on and are engaging only in nostalgia. We just watched it all happen, but Annie and Alvy have lived since then and don’t see it the same way we do. In a way, our wound is still fresh. Theirs is healed and scarred over.

But hey, they get their closure (something many of us never get in relationships) and so do we. The movie ends like the relationship did. It’s just over. There’s no music over the credits. It’s just done. The lights come up, or the Netflix “What to Watch Next” thing comes up, and you leave the theater, or open up a tab for Facebook (if your life is as dull as mine).

Oh look, someone changed their relationship status to single. That’s too bad.

For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and his book, The Book of Word Records, available now!