INTERIORS, Woody Allen’s 8th film and first drama as writer/director, sandwiched between big hits Annie Hall and Manhattan, was too relentlessly downbeat to be anywhere near as popular with audiences, but it won—with a few carps—considerable praise and pegged five Academy Award nominations. Stark, intimate, singularly cheerless, Allen’s full frontal foray into icy Bergmanland is made compelling by the minutely observed, emotionally naked reveals from some top-notch actors.
Corporate lawyer ‘Arthur’ (E.G. Marshal) separates from his wife ‘Eve’ (Geraldine Page), an interior decorator so closed off to passion that she can only relate to furnishing and décor. Their three daughters are likewise stymied in their careers and stifled in their relationships. The success enjoyed by acerbic poet ‘Renata’ (Diane Keaton) is a further block to her self-pitying writer husband ‘Frederick’ (Richard Jordan). Lacking direction, morose ‘Joey’ (Mary Beth Hurt) spats with husband ‘Mike’ (Sam Waterston) and everyone else. Actress ‘Flyn’ (Kristin Griffith) has done well in Hollywood, but that’s considered ‘lowbrow’ by the family’s astringent aesthetic standards. Conversational posturing and ‘good taste’ make shallow defenses against selfishness and jealousy, bitterness and emptiness. While the rest of his family treads water on a sea of self-inflicted hurt, Arthur finds a life raft in buoyant, aptly named ‘Pearl’ (Maureen Stapleton), who has more honesty, vitality and life force than all the rest put together.
Allen’s dialogue bristles with thrust and parry barbs that sting enough and are so keenly delivered by the actors that it keeps the persistently somber tone from deflating to a wallow in glumness. Just when it skirts suffocation, Stapleton’s unaffected and spirited Pearl arrives, exuding warmth into the near-glacial atmosphere; a splendid performance from a wonderful actress. Everyone’s on top of their game, bringing layers of dimension to a mostly disagreeable, group of class-insulated, isolate, pseudo-intellectual sufferers. Whether in the end it all means much is debatable, but as an exercise in style and as an acting showcase it’s very impressive.
The Oscar nominations came for Director, Actress (Page), Supporting Actress (Stapleton), Screenplay and Art Direction. Done for an economical $3,100,000, it grossed $10,200,000, ranking 58th in 1978. *
* Adjusted for inflation, Interiors was Allen’s 13th most-attended picture out of the more than four dozen he both wrote & directed as of 2022. To that mostly impressive total we’re choosing to exclude Don’t Drink The Water (writing), What’s New Pussycat? (writing, acting), Casino Royale (acting) and Antz (voice acting).