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Film / Annie Hall

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"There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of them 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."
— The start of Alvy Singer's opening monologue

Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Woody Allen, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Marshall Brickman. The cast includes Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Janet Margolin, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, and Colleen Dewhurst.

The story centers on neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (Allen), who's trying to understand the end of his relationship with nightclub singer Annie Hall (Keaton).

Allen, who had previously been known as maker of zany comedies, has described this film as "a major turning point" in bringing 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 captured using 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.

The film also contains several instances of Retroactive Recognition: a young Jeff Goldblum can be seen for a few seconds as a vapid LA type, telling someone on the phone that "I forgot my mantra," and Sigourney Weaver made her film debut here in a non-speaking bit part as Alvy's date.

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.
  • Anachronic Order: The first scene has Alvy talking to the camera about how he and Annie have broken up. The rest of the movie has chopped-up scenes from various stages in their relationship—the film is a third of the way through before we see their first meeting—mixed in with other flashbacks, mostly of Alvy's childhood and past but also a scene from Annie's past where she was dating an actor.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Black Comedy Rape: "My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks."
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with Alvy reciting a joke that he feels is applicable to his current life situation.
  • Call-Back: One scene shows Alvy and Annie spill some lobsters on the floor; they laugh and joke. Later, near the end, Alvy's dating another woman and spills some lobsters on the floor (in the same place), and she rolls her eyes at him and finds him totally unfunny. It underlines just how well-suited Annie was to him, if not he to her.
  • 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".
  • Celebrity Paradox: Alvy is being pestered by a couple of Italian guys who have seen him on TV; he tells Annie that he's been talking to "the cast of The Godfather. Diane Keaton, of course, starred in both Godfather films.
  • 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 in Wisconsin 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.
  • 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.
  • Dub Name Change: The Hungarian version of the film replaced Alvy's reference to Groucho Marx with Buster Keaton in the dubbing. They were afraid people might think of Karl Marx.
  • Facepalm: Alvy does this in a flashback to his childhood:
    Alvy: (in voice-over) And Ivan Ackerman. Always the wrong answer. Always.
    Ivan Ackerman: Seven and three is nine.
    Young Alvy: *facepalm*
  • Fish out of Water: Alvy feels this very acutely when he visits Annie's extremely WASPy family and they all have dinner.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We learn from Alvy's opening monologue that he and Annie have broken up.
  • 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 interviewed William F. Buckley Jr. on a television special, and they actually got along quite well.
  • 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. One scene has the camera, sitting motionless, as Alvy has one of his typical animated conversations with his friend Rob. The scene and the conversation continues as the film keeps running without a cut, and eventually it becomes clear that Alvy and Rob are walking up the sidewalk and approaching the camera. Eventually they make it to the foreground, and the movie finally cuts. The movie theater scene where Alvy is irritated by the man droning on endlessly behind him was also done in a single unbroken take. 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 (1998) 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-Shift Gag: 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.
  • One-Book Author: This was the only film role for many of the young actors in Alvy's class, including Jonathan Munk, who played the young Alvy.
  • Powder Gag: The coke-sniffing scene. One sneeze from Alvy and tens of thousands of dollars' worth of cocaine are scattered all over the room.
  • Racist Grandma: Grammy Hall. Alvy calls her a "Jew-hater" and she has a brief Imagine Spot of him in Hasidic garb with the usual long beard.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Alvy hates Los Angeles as to him the city represents all that's wrong with the world, and is the center for superficiality. In fact, when Rob suggests relocating to Hollywood, Alvy says "[He doesn't] want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light". But more importantly, Alvy doesn't just loathe L.A. because he finds it fake. He dislikes it because it symbolizes Annie's freedom. When she moves out there to pursue singing professionally, she leaves Alvy behind. She doesn't involve him in the decision to go because she doesn't need to. It's a big, exciting change in her life, and Alvy's incapable of change. When Annie abandons New York for Los Angeles to kick-start her career, Alvy takes it as a personal rejection.
    • Conversely, New York to Alvy is everything Los Angeles isn't. It's crowded, energy-filled, and full of culture… and garbage. In a word, it represents home or it's Alvy's safety blanket. It even symbolizes Alvy himself. When he leaves, he gets physically sick. He can't survive without its hustle, bustle, and intellectual ambiance. And he definitely can't imagine why Annie would ever want to stray from it. She's ready for a change of location… and a change of partner. After all, Annie is well aware of the realities of both Alvy and The Big Apple—and she thinks that they're both ultimately toxic. Whether he's magically summoning Marshall McLuhan or getting relationship advice from random passersby on the street, Alvy uses New York as the playground for his fantasies, which suggests just how comfortable he is there.
    • We don't spend a lot of time with Annie's weird brother Duane, but the time we do spend is important as just like Alvy, Duane has fantasies; more specifically, he has visions of steering his car into oncoming traffic in a fiery, glass-filled explosion. Later, Duane gives Alvy and Annie a lift to the airport, and Alvy is thoroughly freaked out. But film critic Tim Dirks argues that Alvy and Annie's treacherous ride with Duane "metaphorically foreshadows the crashing future of their relationship." As they speed across the wet blacktop, Alvy's extremely anxious, but Annie's cool. Similarly, when their romance does go up in flames, Alvy's a mess. He flies to Los Angeles, rents a car, and chases down Annie. Flying, L.A. and driving all seriously stress Alvy out. When he meets Annie, he's stressed and petulantly asks her to marry him, twice. Annie, on the other hand, is as cool as a cucumber—just like she was in the car with Duane. She's unfazed by Alvy's concerns and demands. Duane and his unsettling car crash fantasies are a symbol of not only the end of Alvy and Annie's relationship, but also of how both parties will handle it. Alvy travels to Los Angeles not only to blow up his relationship with Annie, but also to literally crash his rental car.
    • When it comes to drugs towards Alvy, they symbolize a lack of control he just can't abide. That's why Annie's persistent need to smoke pot before they get it on irks him so much: If he gets high, he'll lose control of himself; when she gets high, he feels like he loses control of her and the experience. Alvy's and Annie's differences in opinion when it comes to drugs also symbolizes their different attitudes about life outside of the sack. Annie's open to exploration and unpredictability. Alvy isn't. Take the scene where their friends offer them some cocaine, for example. Annie's game for a new experience (albeit a thoroughly stupid one). Alvy's not, and explains that he just doesn't see the appeal in letting go, while Annie accuses him directly of never wanting to try anything new. Whether it's a joint or a pile of cocaine sneezed across a coffee table, drugs are a symbol of change: Annie welcomes it, and Alvy rejects it.
  • 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 a clip of Woody Allen appearing on the 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.
  • Sexiness Score: While Alvy and Rob are at a party with his friend, Rob refers to a female guest as a 10 due to "VPL", and Rob clarifies VPL stands for "visible panty line".
  • Shiksa Goddess: Annie the Midwestern WASP, paired with Alvy the New York Jew.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The animated Alvy is based on the Author Avatar from the Inside Woody Allen 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: Both the opening and the closing credits play completely silent.
  • Slice of Life: It is a somewhat autobiographical slice of Alvy's life.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus 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 dismisses Los Angeles as "a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light".
    • 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.
    • When Alvy is with Pam the Rolling Stone reporter at a gathering for the Maharishi:
      Pam: I'm a Rosicrucian myself.
      Alvy: I can't get with any religion that advertises in Popular Mechanics. (seeing the Maharishi) Look, there's "God" coming out of the men's room.
  • 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". In one scene, he approaches a random couple and asks them how they make their relationship work, and they both tell him that they are shallow and uninteresting and they have nothing to say so they're a good match.
    • 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.
  • Waxing Lyrical: While rhapsodizing to Alvy about a Bob Dylan concert she attended, Pam recites the chorus from "Just Like a Woman", to his visible irritation.
  • White Guilt: Alvy's parents' 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. Some gasbag in line for the movies behind Alvy and Annie is droning on about film and television, and after he gets to the ideas of Marshall McLuhan Alvy, his patience exhausted, tells the gasbag that he's got it all wrong. The gasbag then counters that he actually teaches a class about McLuhan. Alvy shoots back "Well, I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here," and he actually pulls Marshall McLuhan from behind an advertising exhibit into the frame. McLuhan says that Alvy's right and he wonders how the gasbag could be teaching anything.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Played with. The "winner of the Truman Capote lookalike contest" is... Truman Capote.

"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."


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 (4 votes)

Example of:

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