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Hannah and Her Sisters

#143 - Hannah and Her Sisters
Woody Allen, 1986

Centres on three sisters and their complicated love lives.

The concept of a person watching film after film by an acclaimed and prolific filmmaker in the hope that they'll eventually see one by said filmmaker that they'll actually like sounds like it could've sprung from a Woody Allen film itself, but unfortunately it's just a summary of how, despite how much people like his movies, I struggle to enjoy any of his films (with the possible exception of Broadway Danny Rose, but that was a caper film with a fairly action-driven plot unlike just about every other Allen film I've seen, so until I see more of his work I'm inclined to consider it an anomaly). Hannah and Her Sisters seemed like it might have been a little different with its tragicomic tale of a complicated, interconnected group of love stories but unfortunately the execution was definitely not something I particularly cared for.

The main plot of the film, such as there is one, concerns a tale of infidelity that occurs as one couple including the titular Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her husband (Michael Caine) start to grow apart, leading Caine to obsess over Hannah's younger and prettier sister (Barbara Hershey) and ultimately begin an affair with her. Though Caine managed to win an Oscar for his role as a flawed yet apparently sympathetic example of a middle-aged man who is at least somewhat aware of how awful he's being over this, not even his considerable talent make this character or his arc consistently interesting, with only the guilt complex stopping it from completely falling into cliché territory. It doesn't help that Caine's distinctive English accent makes him come across as a fish out of water against the predominantly American rhythms on display (and that's including Max von Sydow as Hershey's nihilistic partner, but at least his smaller amount of screen-time and accentless delivery doesn't make me question his presence as much as Caine does).

The film's secondary plot involves Hannah's other sister (Dianne Weist) and her scatterbrained attempts to do something meaingful with her life, which intersects with Hannah's first husband (Allen himself, playing a neurotic writer for a TV show - how surprising) and his attempts to find meaning in his life following a health scare. While Weist is a decent enough performer (and you'd think she would be considering that she also won an Oscar), the character doesn't do all that much to stick out in my memory beyond being the kind of neurotic New Yorker that only seems to exist within the confines of an Allen film. As for Allen himself...don't get me started. His whole sub-plot about his character's existential crisis, complete with panicky narration and the usual nervy Allen mannerisms, comes across as superfluous above all else and not even its resolution is enough to make me feel any better about its existence in general.

Despite the considerable acclaim that's been heaped on it, Hannah and Her Sisters ultimately did nothing for me. Breaking things up with title cards and flashbacks while peppering scenes with the internal monologues of multiple characters don't add much of note to what comes across as a fairly drab drama where any genuinely comical element comes across as an unwelcome intrusion. I guess the search for an Allen film I sincerely and unquestionably like is still ongoing.