HANNAH AND HER SISTERS , Woody Allen’s 1986 survey of relationship anxieties, ranks as his third biggest hit (adjusting for inflation $40m to $87m) after Annie Hall and Manhattan, and remains highly regarded by critics and fans three decades on. Some shine has waned, with the competing, never-ending multiple neuroses of urban artistes ala Allen having been done so often that you twitch from recognition of his signature carps almost as much as you laugh over their cleverness.
This mixup endures because of the fine cast, its smart interweave of a trio of story arcs (covering eight main characters various pairings and splits over two years, banked by several Thanksgiving parties) and thanks to being warmly wrapped in autumnal color from the camera work of Carlo Di Palma. Most enjoyable thesping comes from Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Max Von Sydow (bitterfunny), Dianne Wiest, and a final bow from old pro Lloyd Nolan, who died four months before the film premiered, at age 83.
Allen himself remains a matter of taste, those who like his gig (I almost always do) will laugh; people who find him creepy will just cringe. He again gives then-spouse Mia Farrow a central spot (count me out of the Mia Fan Club), and the script made rather cruel hay with inside info from the real Farrow family clan (including her mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, who co-stars–as Mom). Much of the movie was shot in Farrow’s apartment, with four of her own children in bits, including the now-famous Soon-Yi Previn.
“And Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said that the life we lived we’re gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I’ll have to sit through the Ice Capades again.”
Economically produced ($6,400,000) it also allows quick licks from Daniel Stern, Carrie Fisher, Julie Kavner, Lewis Black (debut), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, J.T.Walsh, Richard Jenkins, Tony Roberts, John Turturro and Sam Waterston. Glib, observant, painful, funny, irritating for 103 minutes, it won Oscars for the Screenplay (by Allen), and Supporting Actor & Actress (Caine & Wiest) and was nominated for Best Picture, Director (Allen), Film Editing and Art Direction.
Max Von Sydow’s character, talking about TV: “You see the whole culture. Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, a talk show. Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third grade con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”