Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1986. Orion Pictures, Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Carlo Di Palma. Produced by Robert Greenhut. Production Design by Stuart Wurtzel. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland. Film Editing by Susan E. Morse. Academy Awards 1986. Golden Globe Awards 1986. National Board of Review Awards 1986. New York Film Critics Awards 1986.
The masterpiece in the Woody Allen oeuvre is this fascinating examination of sibling relationships. Hannah (Mia Farrow in a standout performance) is a generous and caring wife (to Michael Caine) and mother who makes herself available to everyone in her family no matter what their needs are. Lee (Barbara Hershey) is in an empty relationship with a much older man (Max von Sydow) and trying to figure out what to do when Caine announces he’s madly in love with her. Youngest sister Holly (Dianne Wiest) has frustrations and insecurities that stem from her inability to decide what to do with her life. These characters, plus the girls’ parents (Lloyd Nolan, Farrow’s mother Maureen O’Sullivan), Hannah’s hypochondriac ex-husband (Allen), Holly’s best friend (Carrie Fisher) and love interest (Sam Waterston) are all perfectly balanced by the master’s platinum-quality screenplay and terrific direction. The bittersweet relationships play out to a more than satisfying finale and the performances (particularly Oscar winning Wiest) all sparkle. At the heart of it, though, is Allen’s subtle and intuitive understanding of the push-and-pull dynamics that guide these three women and how they relate to each other. Along with Crimes and Misdemeanors, this is as good as our sly nebbish gets.