Sandy Bates (Allen) is a neurotic movie director struggling to survive a career retrospective being held in his honor, all while dealing with studio executives who are demanding a new, happier ending to his bleak new film.
This film contains examples of:
- Ambiguously Bi: The film more of less states that Daisy is bisexual, as she talks about her various dalliances.
- The Anti-Nihilist: In the end of the film Sandy is back on the train uncertain where he is going, but he is no longer desperate to get off as he is happily with Isobel. He declares that even if they are headed to the same trash heap, it's not so bad as they have each other.
- Author Avatar: Sandy Bates is pretty much Allen. In fact, it's strongly hinted that Bates is a character played by Allen, who is As Himself in the final scene after the film had been screened.
- Brick Joke: One segment shows a monster that is representative of Sandy's anger going on a rampage, killing his therapists and his ex-wife. Later in the film, a fan asking a stupid question is mauled by the creature in an effective Jump Scare.
- Empathic Environment: Even Bates' apartment reflects his mood. When he's depressed, the famous photo of Nguyen Van Lém being executed adorns his wall. When he's happy, Groucho Marx in Animal Crackers is on the wall.
- Executive Meddling: An in-universe example - the executives want to give Sandy's latest film a happier ending.
- Homage: Federico Fellini, and 8½ in particular.
- Jump Cut: Dorrie's final bout of Sanity Slippage is marked by disjointed shots of her breaking down.
- Sanity Slippage: Over the course of the film, we see Sandy and Dorrie's relationship falling apart. Towards the end, there's a montage of Dorrie's increasingly neurotic statements.Martian: Im a super-intelligent being. By earth standards I have an IQ of 1600, and even I cant understand what you expected from that relationship with Dorrie.
- Show Within a Show: The entire film is a movie being screened at a Woody Allen festival. (Yes, Woody, not Sandy.) The actors even talk about their roles in the film when leaving.
- Take That, Audience!: A lot of fans for a long while took the film as a slap in their face because of the way Allen portrayed his fans - then they loved it as Self-Deprecation.
- Take That Me: Woody Allen names his Author Avatar "Bates".
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: The fans (and the studio executives) all complain that Sandy keeps making "serious" movies instead of the kind of slapstick comedies that made him famous.Martian: Let me tell you, you're not the missionary type. You'd never last. And-and incidentally, you're also not Superman; you're a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.
- Troubled, but Cute: Daisy is cute, but it's not-too-subtly implied that she has a lot of issues.