HOLLYWOOD ENDING

(2002)
With Woody Allen, Tea Leoni, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Debra Messing
Co-written and Directed by Woody Allen

Reviewed by JB

     Sometimes the problem with Woody Allen the writer is that his scripts are not done justice by Woody Allen the actor and Woody Allen the director.  HOLLYWOOD ENDING is a case in point.  The story is perfect for a screwball farce about the vapidness of Hollywood, with overlapping dialogue among diverse characters in a richly comic central situation: a neurotic film director past his prime goes blind on the eve of a possible career-reviving Hollywood assignment.  But Allen the director, who is great at parodies, period pieces and light romantic comedies, is simply not the right choice for this material.  He may no longer has the timing nor the vision (no pun intended) to pull off a fast-paced '40s style farce.  He is competent enough, but the material needs somebody with more energy.

     But even with sharper direction, we would still have to deal with Allen the actor, who brings so much personal baggage to his roles these days that it is no longer amusing nor tasteful see him romantically entangled with gorgeous younger women. Compare the mature Diane Keaton in MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY to any of his younger female co-stars and the problem becomes clear. Tea Leoni and Debra Messing are both fine and funny in the film, but Allen needs to play off of a soul mate like Keaton, Mia Farrow (yeah, like that's gonna happen again) or even the unsung Julie Kavner.  He's fine playing a father figure to the decades-younger Scarlett Johansson in SCOOP, but imagine him playing a romantic lead with the same actress, and you see the problem.

     Although some of the gags Allen the writer provides would have been perfect for Allen the actor 20 years ago, it is simply not that entertaining to hear a man pushing 70 making masturbation jokes or see him accidentally falling off a film set, no matter how funny these things may may read on paper.  A physical and verbal comedian like Steve Martin might have done a better job with the role. Since Allen knows how to write good jokes, there are laughs in HOLLYWOOD ENDING and a terrific cast.  But with a little less self-involvement by Allen, it could have been much better.  2½ - JB

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