What's interesting about a film like this is how ambiguous the characters are. Like here, you have Elliot cheating on Hannah with Lee and his mental voiceover after the act of infidelity is so self-satisfied and then castigating. I feel twinges of loathing at his transparent self-delusion, and yet the movie's portryal is rawly honest--the movie doesn't try to paint its characters as better than they are (an honesty I admire in stories too). So anyway, you just know that this is how a man gets about cheating: he talks himself into a desperate sense of love that's really just midlife crisis and lust, then feels all cozy once he's lived out his fantasy--doubts creep in, he is immediately less interested in leaving his wife. Right now I'm watching the scene when Hannah raises questions about their marriage and he turns it around and attacks her for interrogating him. He's awful, but he's human.
The relationships between the sisters in this are so painfully true too, and each one of them can be likeable one minute and then a total bitch the next, and their insecurities with each other are so sharp--especially Lee and Holly, because Hannah always looms over them as this paragon.
In the end, I identify with Holly the most--not in characteristics, but in some essence of character. She's the artistic one and she flails around, trying one thing and then another, always short of money, always wracked by envy of everyone around her.
When I think about the movie, I think about the sisters and tend to forget how Mickey's (Allen's) existential angst, hypochondria, tumor fear, and religious crisis threads through this. His terrible date with Holly is this brilliant misery of clashing styles and musical tastes, and we get that first version of Cole Porter's "I'm In Love Again," which ends the movie in one of my favorite scenes: when Mickey comes up behind Holly, the woman he's unexpectedly settled with at last, and Holly gazes at their embracing bodies in the mirror with this little smile, and they talk about this and that as the music plays, and then she tells him she's pregnant. And you can just feel her utter joy. Dianne Wiest is great here. Well, all the actresses are, even when the dialogue as written gets a little stilted. Barbara Hershey's lips are so odd, though.
Now I'm watching the lunch scene where the camera slowly revolves around the table showing one actress after the other as they snap and jab, with Lee's guilt over her infidelity with Hannah's husband running as an unspoken undercurrent throughout.
Favorite line: when Norma, the boozy old actress, scathingly refers to her husband as a "haircut that passes for a man."
Hannah: "Do you find me too giving, too competent, too disgustingly perfect?" This is one of the best roles for Mia Farrow--her high-pitched and rather grating whininess, and that edge of unlikeability she always carries with her, suit her character well here.
Mmm. Holly and Mickey make me so happy. He sees her in the music store--the "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" theme music playing over the scene--and he comes in and greets her with an affable recollection of their date from hell, and they insult each other cheerfully. And their conversation here is one of the best and most natural in the movie. And then she goes to his place the next day and reads her script to him. I love that she turns out to be a good writer and that Mickey loves her script so much. Their reactions--his to the script, hers to his praise--are endearing.
Love the New York scenery in the fall. And Mickey's story about his suicide attempt. This is Allen at his best, dealing with the biggest possible human issues flat out like this, in a way both funny and straightforward. I can't think of a lot of movies that do what this one does. Most movies only pay attention to surfaces--coast by on action, sound and fury. And part of the beauty are the voiceovers. When I think of voiceovers now, I think of the screenwriter's rant in Adaptation about how terrible a device they are ("...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends! God help you! That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character."), but this movie proves how eloquent it can be to just let the characters say what they're thinking. (Which in turn makes me think of that comment of Jane Espenson's, I believe, in the DVD commentary to--is it "Wild at Heart"? Where she talks about Joss's rewrite and how he has Willow simply ask the question straight from her heart, instead of leaving it unsaid. And I think the line was, "Don't you love me?")
The movie's last scene still kills me. I am always surprised when I am moved by such traditional stuff--marriage, love, pregnancy--when I don't consider myself sentimental, especially about heterosexual romance and rituals. And when the idea of pregnancy is in fact deeply...well, shudder. But this scene--immediately as soon as the music shifts and Mickey starts kissing her, I begin to cry. Just tears running down my face. It's the best ending ever.