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Film / Annie Hall

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"I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken.' And, uh, the doctor says, 'Well, why don't you turn him in?' The guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs."
Alvy Singer

Annie Hall (1977) is an American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen from a script co-written with Marshall Brickman. It centers on comedian Alvy Singer (Allen), who is trying to understand the end of his relationship with nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).

Allen had previously been known as a maker of zany comedies; the director has described Annie Hall as "a major turning point", as it brought a new level of seriousness to his work, in addition to consolidating his signature cinematic style, which includes long, realistically written scenes of conversation, often shot in uninterrupted takes, and an equal thematic investment in both hilarity and heartbreak. It was followed the next year by his first completely serious melodrama, Interiors.

The film was originally written as a murder mystery, but Allen and editor Ralph Rosenblum chopped off the mystery parts, and turned the film into a romantic comedy being told by Alvy. Allen would later use the murder mystery plot for Manhattan Murder Mystery, which starred Allen and Keaton as a married couple and is considered by many to be a Spiritual Successor to Annie Hall.


Annie Hall provides examples of:

  • All Women Are Prudes:
    Separate therapists: Do you have sex often?
    Alvy: Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
    Annie: Constantly. I'd say three times a week.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: A number of Alvy's opinions on life and relationships reek of pessimism and nihilism, best exemplified by the film's opening lines,
    Alvy: There's an old joke, um... Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life—full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
    • This, however, is turned around when Alvy shares another joke at the very end of the film (see the page quote) and rationalizes that he has a reason to endure all of the absurdity and suffering "because he needs the eggs". The theme is also exemplified through Dr. Flicker's viewpoint in his talk with young Alvy and his mother, when young Alvy had concluded that nothing is important because the the universe is expanding and everything in existence will fall apart.
      Dr. Flicker: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!
  • Aside Comment: Alvy makes several of these throughout the film.
  • Advertisement:
  • Athens and Sparta: Alvy Singer is upset about coming to LA, hating the architecture, the advertising, the lack of cultural refinement and poor West Coast fashions, while he prefers New York, the land of the Melting Pot, true culture and cosmopolitan sophistication.
  • Author Avatar: Hmmmm...Alvy's neurotic, Jewish, from New York, with a fixation on Diane Keaton, who is also incidentally a stand-up comic...nope, probably just a coincidence...
  • Berserk Button: A mild case, but Alvy does NOT like hearing the word "neat".
  • Better as Friends: Alvy realizes this at the end of the film.
    Alvy: After that, it got pretty late and we both had to go. But it was great seeing Annie again. And I realize what a terrific person she was and how much fun it was just knowing her...
  • Bittersweet Ending: One of the best examples in an Allen film. Alvy and Annie run into each other one more time after their final breakup, share a brief but friendly chat and then go their separate ways, as Alvy recalls the highlights of their relationship and muses in the closing narration quoted up top.
  • Black Comedy Rape: "My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks."
  • Bookends: The film starts and ends with Alvy reciting a joke that he feels is applicable to his current life situation.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: With a sledgehammer for 90 minutes.
  • The Cameo:
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Alvy and Annie can't quite say they love each other. Alvy dodges it by saving he "luffs" her and "lurves" her, then asks her quizzically doesn't she love him? She avoids it too. It's a hint they are Better as Friends.
  • Catchphrase: Annie's "La dee dah".
  • Central Theme: The Aesop that life doesn't work out the way you fantasize it will — and that's okay.
  • The Chanteuse: Annie is a nightclub singer.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Annie's brother Duane. He's....a little off.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Alvy is a mild case. He uses speculations about the JFK assassination to avoid sex with his first wife. (Ironically, in 1960 Alvy was campaigning against JFK, trying to get Adlai Stevenson to be the Democratic nominee for President, which is how he met Allison in the first place.)
  • Crappy Holidays: The Jewish Alvy endures an awkward Easter with Annie's WASP family and a sickness-inducing Christmas in Los Angeles.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: The first time Annie has sex with Alvy, she says it was "nice". It's a hint things aren't as rosy as Alvy thinks it was.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alvy, of course:
    Alvy: (on the loud man in line) Probably on their first date, right?... Probably met by answering an ad in the New York Review of Books. "Thirtyish academic wishes to meet woman who's interested in Mozart, James Joyce and sodomy."
    • Annie gets her shots in.
      Alvy: I can't go into a movie that's already started, because I'm anal.
      Annie: That's a polite word for what you are.
    • If this scene is any indication, Allison was a bit of a snarker herself:
      Alvy: You, you, you're like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y'know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
      Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "You mean that my whole fallacy is wrong!"
    • Alvy noting that he hates public showers because he doesn't want to be naked before "men of my gender".
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted, in that both realize they're Better as Friends.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Annie herself, and (worse) her brother Dwayne.
    • Alvy himself proves to be a horrible driver when he takes out an entire parking lot in Los Angeles. Yes, he had just lost Annie, but after the first couple of fender benders, that's no excuse.
  • Face Palm: Alvy does this in a flashback to his childhood:
    Alvy (voice-over): And Ivan Ackerman. Always the wrong answer. Always.
    Ivan Ackerman: Seven and three is nine.
    Young Alvy: (Face Palm)
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During the "spider the size of a Buick" scene, sharp eyes will spot the photographs she took of Alvy holding a lobster, showing that despite their breakup, he still held a special spot in her heart. (He's at least at the same level as Duane, who also has a quartet of photos in the background.)
  • Freudian Slip: A ton. For example:
    Alvy: What did the doctor say?
    Annie: Well, she said that I should probably come five times a week. And you know something? I don't think I mind analysis at all. The only question is, is 'Will it change my wife?'
    Alvy: Will it change your wife?!
    Annie: Will it change my life?
    Alvy: Yeah, but you said, 'Will it change my wife?'
    Annie: No I didn't. I said, 'Will it change my life, Alvy?'
    Alvy: (directly to audience) She said, 'Will it change my wife?' You heard that, because you were there. So I'm not crazy.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Alvy and Annie's first awkward conversation comes with these.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Alvy: (before) 'Cause adult education's a wonderful thing. You meet a lot of interesting professors. You know, it's stimulating.
    Alvy: (now) Adult education is just junk. The professors are so phony.
  • Godwin's Law: "What's with all these awards? They're always giving out awards! Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler!"
  • I Have to Go Iron My Dog:
    Duane: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.
    Alvy: Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth.
  • Imagine Spot: Seamlessly integrated in many times, most notably the scene in the movie theater line where he pulls in Marshall McLuhan to disprove a blowhard prattling on and on about him. "Boy, if life were only like this!"
  • In-Joke: At one point, Alvy gets a bit miffed over Annie having an issue of National Review. Ten years before the movie came out, Woody Allen had William F. Buckley on his show, and they got along quite well.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": For some reason, Annie pronounces Reagan "Ree-gan".
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Alvy's elderly aunt.
    Aunt Tessie: I was quite a lively dancer!
  • Jews Love to Argue: Highlighted by Alvy's mother and father arguing about the cleaning lady, and whether she had a right to steal from them.
    Alvy: You're both crazy!
  • Laugh Track: Rob's use of it to boost his sitcom drives Alvy bonkers, calling it "immoral".
    Alvy: Is there booing there?
  • Leave the Camera Running: The rare positive example. As noted by Roger Ebert:
    Bordwell tells me Annie Hall has an ASLnote  of 14.5 seconds (he says other 1977 films he clocked had an ASL of from 4 to 7 seconds). By comparison, the recent film Armageddon has an ASL of 2.3 seconds, a velocity that arguably makes intelligent dialogue impossible.
  • Love Allegory: "A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies."
  • Malicious Misnaming:
    Alvy: Stop calling me "Max".
    Rob: Why, Max? It's a good name for you.note 
    • Reality Subtext: Woody Allen always used "Max" as his fake name in hotel registers.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Annie. Played straight, then deconstructed. Alvy is a bit of an unusual counterpart for such a character, however, as he's quite manic and talkative himself, to say the least.
  • Medium Blending: Alvy and the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • Minnesota Nice: The Wisconsin-born Annie is a combination of this and Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Also her relatives in the Easter dinner scene: "I can't believe this family... They're talking swap meets and boat basins and the old lady at the end of the table is a classic Jew hater."
  • Nausea Fuel: In-Universe when Alvy views Annie with her actor boyfriend.
    Jerry: Touch my heart... with your foot.
    Alvy: (observing) I may throw up.
  • No Fourth Wall: Which makes sense, since the entire film is a story that Alvy is telling the viewer.
  • Pensieve Flashback
  • Powder Gag: The coke-sniffing scene.
  • Racist Grandma: Grammy Hall.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted for the most part.
  • Remaster: The DVD versions of the film were taken from an original print, so the subtitles during the rooftop conversation are generated by the player rather than burned in, making them easier to read and translate into French and Spanish.
  • Romantic Comedy: A rare example with a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: This film made the look famous.
  • Self-Deprecation: Well, it's Woody Allen. What do you expect? One scene that's pointed out is the college professor going on about how "indulgent" Federico Fellini is — something that Allen is being with Annie Hall.
  • Self-Plagiarism: The standup routine Alvy performs at the college is taken from his days of when he used to be a standup comedian. Also, when Alvy is describing himself becoming a comedian, we see an excerpt of Woody Allen's appearing on the Dick Cavett show, doing a bit from one of his standup routines (which is also an example of Celebrity Paradox, even though Alvy is basically based on Allen).
    • Also, when he calls Annie in Los Angeles (right before he flies out to see her), he talks about seeing a man in the park on roller skates wearing a pinwheel hat, which references a character from his short story "The Lunatic's Tale".
  • Sex Changes Everything: Averted when Alvy and Annie have sex for the first time.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The animated Woody is the Author Avatar of Woody Allen's comic strip that was published in newspapers at the time.
    • Most famously, Woody Allen's characters attend a screening of the documentary The Sorrow and the Pity.
    • Alvy returning to his childhood home and seeing his younger self and his family is an obvious nod to Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries.
    • He and Annie are prepared to see Bergman's Face to Face, but Alvy refuses to see it because he missed the opening credits.
  • Silent Credits
  • Slice of Life: It is a somewhat autobiographical slice of Alvy's life
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Alvy is on the cynical side. "I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable."
    • Annie is on the idealism side, but Alvy notes that he considers it a "personal triumph" when he meets her dragging a new boyfriend to see The Sorrow and the Pity.
  • Speech-Centric Work, as specifically noted by Roger Ebert:
    "Few viewers probably notice how much of Annie Hall consists of people talking, simply talking. They walk and talk, sit and talk, go to shrinks, go to lunch, make love and talk, talk to the camera, or launch into inspired monologues like Annie's free-association as she describes her family to Alvy."
  • Split Screen: Used several times to comedic effect.
  • Stealth Insult: Inverted.
    Pam: Sex with you really is a Kafkaesque experience, isn't it.
    Alvy: (nonplussed) Oh. Thank you.
    Pam: I meant that as a compliment.
  • Stepford Smiler: Alvy is like this during the scene when a comic is pitching him on the type of (horrible, in Alvy's opinion) jokes he wants Alvy to write for him. Lampshaded by Alvy, who wonders in an Inner Monologue how much longer he can keep the smile on his face.
  • The Stoner: Annie, to the annoyance of Alvy, who's nervous about whether her emotions toward him are genuine or drug-induced.
  • Take That!: Alvy is aghast at the practice of TV laugh tracks, calling it "immoral" and saying it means the show isn't funny enough for a Studio Audience.
    Alvy: Are there boos on that [the laugh track playback]?
    • Alvy warns Annie not to take any course where they'll make her read Beowulf.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: "16 years old! Can you imagine the mathematical possibilities?"
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Remember Duane's speech about intentionally crashing his car into another head-on? Guess who is driving a relaxed Annie and a terrified, wary Alvy to the airport? At night? In the rain? With a car passing by in the opposite lane?
  • Unreliable Narrator: Alvy, by his own admission, has "some trouble between fantasy and reality".
    • Deconstructed by Alvy's play, in which it repeats the same California health food restaurant scene, but changed to reflect Alvy's desires.
      Alvy: What do you want from me? It was my first play.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    Partygoer: Not only is he a great agent, he really gives good meeting.
  • The Un-Smile: Alvy's forced to keep a frozen smile on his face while watching a dreadful comic do his act in front of him.
  • Vox Pops: Alvy discusses his relationship with Annie to various random people on the street - including a horse.
  • White Guilt: Alvy's parent's argument over firing the cleaning lady. Alvy's mother said she was stealing from them. Alvy's father said they should give her a break because she's "a colored woman from Harlem", and "The colored have enough trouble already", and "She's got a RIGHT to steal from us!"
    Alvy: (watching) You're both crazy!
  • Word of God: Invoked in-story with Marshall McLuhan.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Played with. Winner of the Truman Capote look-a-like contest is... Truman Capote.


Video Example(s):


Annie Hall: Classmates

Alvy (Woody Allen) talks about his school days and (literally) relives them.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / PensieveFlashback

Media sources:

Main / PensieveFlashback