Woody Allen has really found his groove these days. The problem is that it is
one that allows him to churn out one mediocre movie after another. Unlike the
brilliant pictures of his golden age, his recent films, like THE CURSE OF THE
JADE SCORPION and SMALL TIME CROOKS, are all, well, okay. Viewers are
guaranteed some nice laughs, but only some, and most of the gags seem like
rip-offs of his old pictures.
Allen's latest, HOLLYWOOD ENDING, falls right into this groove. About Val
Waxman (Allen), a neurotic director who can barely get work anymore, the story
starts with Val filming a deodorant commercial in the desolate, frozen north.
After he is fired on the first day and returns to his New York apartment, he
tells Lori, his live-in girlfriend, "Have you ever seen Canada? Now I know why
there's no crime up there." Yes, you guessed it. His girlfriend, played by
Debra Messing, is four decades younger than him.
Val's salvation comes in the form of a deal with Galaxy Pictures to make a movie
set in his native New York. Ellie (Téa Leoni), Val's ex-wife, has convinced Hal
(Treat Williams), her fiancé and the billionaire head of Galaxy, to give Val the
job. Val's fabulous offer, in addition to his salary, includes, "one twentieth
of a point after quadruple breakeven." The movie is filled with such inside
showbiz jokes. The best of these involves Haley Joel Osment. The art director
whom Val insists on thinks that they need to rebuild Times Square, Central Park
and the Empire State Building since the real things just won't do. Don't worry,
Ellie tells Hal, since they'll only need to build the bottom twenty floors of
the Empire State Building.
Most of the movie concerns Val's psychosomatic blindness, which causes him to
direct the entire film without the crew catching on that he can't see. How his
loss of vision is handled is central to the problems of Allen's script,
direction and acting. Basically Allen turns the picture into a Vaudevillian
farce, with his actors all playing to the cheap seats. As just one example of
many that strains credulity, whenever Val talks to someone beside him, he never
realizes the direction of their voice. If they are on his right, he will
invariably turn to his left and talk with them with animated hand gestures. The
actors perform as if Allen has instructed them that, since it's a farce, they
don't need to try to be believable.
If you go, you'll undoubtedly find it pleasant enough, even if not quite worth
recommending to your friends. Don't spoil it for others, however, by telling
them the ending. It's a small gem hidden within an otherwise unremarkable
HOLLYWOOD ENDING runs too long at 1:54. It is rated PG-13 for "some drug
references and sexual material" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes