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“A week ago I bought a rifle, I went to the store - I bought a rifle! I was gonna, you know, if they told me I had a tumor, I was gonna kill myself. The only thing that might-ve stopped me - MIGHT'VE - is that my parents would be devastated. I would have to shoot them also, first. And then I have an aunt and uncle - you know - it would've been a blood bath.”
In "Hannah and her Sisters," Woody Allen has created a funny, poignant, and sweet film about three very different sisters. The focus is Hannah (Mia Farrow), a successful actress currently married to Elliot (Michael Caine) and divorced from Mickey (Woody Allen). She's more of a mother figure to her sisters, Holly and Lee (Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey) than their own mother (Farrow's real-life mother, Maureen O'Sullivan) an alcoholic performer who likes to flirt with younger men, to the fury of her husband. Hannah handles her mother, puts up with Holly constantly borrowing money and then picking fights with her in that mother/daughter fashion, but she doesn't know that her sister Lee is having an affair with Elliot. And so it goes, as Thanksgivings pass and the women attempt to straighten out their lives.
The film is not so much a comedy as it is a drama. The comedy that's in it fits, and is good: the humorous parts of the films are provided by Wiest and Allen, and some of the lines and situations are hilarious: Holly and Mickey's disastrous date ("I had a great time. It was just like the Nurenberg trials"), Mickey's contemplation of suicide, and Mickey's fear of a brain tumor. Allen is brilliant as a man who believes he's living in a godless world but wants to believe. Though Jewish, he decides to become Catholic, bringing home religious info with his mayonnaise and Wonder Bread; when that doesn't work out, he talks to the Hari Krishna in the park. Wiest is as adorable as she is fantastic as a manic-depressive who goes from acting (including auditioning for a musical when she can't sing), catering (until her partner, played by Carrie Fisher, steals the man she thinks is her boyfriend), and finally writing.
The rest of the cast is magnificent and tackle some of the more serious moments of the movie: Michael Caine as Hannah's husband, looking for love in all the wrong places; Max von Sydow, Lee's tortured artist boyfriend; and Lloyd Nolan and Maureen O'Sullivan as the sisters' parents, in an imperfect marriage filled with love, booze, and jealousy. Hershey is lovely as a confused woman who adores her sister but looks to Caine for a way out of her relationship with a controlling boyfriend.
Like most of Woody Allen's films, it is very well-made. His movies always have a simplistic, deadpan use of the camera that works quite well, a lot of the time keeping the camera stationary in the hallway as the characters leave and go from room to room, passing the camera by as it sits, almost as if it were the point of view of the house itself watching its residents go through life. In Hannah and Her Sisters, there are a few great moments where the camera is used to great and unpredicted comical effect. He also uses music very well in this film. The constant, old-fashioned, eclectic soundtrack plays in nearly every scene and when one scene jumps to another, the changing music will contradict the last piece of music from the previous scene.
It has it all; it's hysterically funny at times (the hypochodriac), it's incredibly painful (afternoons) at others and the blending of the characters paths (“Lucky I ran into you”) is just beautiful… 10/10


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