Annie Hall has a strong critical reputation. It’s the piece where Woody Allen became more serious, it’s won multiple awards, and it’s a creature very much of its time. All those things are true, and it’s worth watching.
[SPOILER ALERT: I’ll be talking about the ending]
But as I was watching it, I couldn’t help think of Scrubs, and the way it insisted on playing on its character’s inner life – his inability to remain in the moment. Even though Annie Hall breaks the fourth wall a little, it’s mostly for the purposes of stepping inside Alvy Singer’s head. Similarly, throughout, the Scrubs series was a game about what was happening inside JD’s head.
Annie Hall tells the story of a young man, trying to remember what went wrong with his relationship. He flashes back to the start of the relationship, and as it progresses, he is constantly looking away, looking at us, talking to us and himself, trying to understand what went wrong. The resolution, really, is when the narrator and protagonist collide and become one, in a Los Angeles parking lot. He slams his car back and forth, out of control, and we realise he is still, at heart, the young boy who played dodgem cars on Cooney Island. In that moment, though, there’s something that takes him to the other side – where he can be happy, and peaceful, about the end of his relationship with Annie Hall.
It’s a funny movie, and worth watching as a reference point to compare to later Woody Allen pieces.
Oh – and of course, we end the movie seeing Woody Allen directing a play about his relationship, but one with a happy ending.