Woody Allen has been trying to make a comeback in recent years. Small Time Crooks was moderately fun, and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion had style written all over it. So on an upward climb, he ventured into an area he should know well - the movies - and failed miserably. Hollywood Ending has mass potential but no content, and it just goes on and on without allowing the audience to as much as whimper a laugh.
Allen stars as an aging and out-of-work director who is picked up to do a major new motion picture by a studio executive, who is romantically involved with Allen's ex-wife. Allen agrees to do the picture only because he needs a comeback film (does this sound familiar?), but something goes wrong; on the first day of shooting, psychological stress causes him to go blind. Of course, if he announces this, he'll never get hired again, so he continues to direct, despite being able to see nothing at all. Comedy is supposed to ensue.
The problem with Hollywood Ending is that it ordinary. It is so ordinary it is horrible. The movie goes from one comical situation to the next, but never extracts any kind of humor from those situations. The fact that he is blind through half the film could lead to some hilarious incidents and so forth, but Allen (who also wrote and directed) resorts mainly to stagehands asking him which object he would prefer, and he blindly says, "That one," leaving the stagehand to frantically guess which one he means.
Aside from the situational comedy, Woody Allen is known for his dialogue, but it is non-existent here. Allen stumbles around the set mumbling even more incoherently than his other movies, but this time it just isn't funny. The dialogue exchange between Helen Hunt and Allen in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion was hilarious; Allen doesn't even come close to that level, including a slightly funny bit with Allen's ex-wife of the movie, the much younger Téa Leoni. He is trying to remain professional, talking solely about the movie, but every few seconds he cuts in asking her why she would leave him for this other guy (maybe because he's closer to her age?). It's hardly funny, and more than anything else, just makes Allen look like he has a split personality.
Hollywood Ending runs for nearly two hours, and in that time not one interesting thing takes place. There is so much in the film that Allen could have capitalized on, but he just doesn't. The truth of the matter is, whether this was intentional or not, this is Allen's own story. Here's a director who is passed his prime, trying to make a good film to jump his career, and is failing miserably. Even Allen's good films of the last couple of years have flopped, and Hollywood Ending is an example of itself.
Furthermore, he should just take a step back and look at his own life, for there is so much to work off of right there. He needs to tackle the comedy surrounding his marriage to younger woman. In Hollywood Ending, he had a relationship to Téa Leoni and is having one with Debra Messing (and is also seduced by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen); he never explains why these women would want to be with him, or at least does not criticize the situation. In all of Allen's movies, he makes fun of himself, but he still does laugh at the one thing he really has going for him, and that is old age. He still thinks he is thirty, and it isn't working for him.
Woody Allen looked like he was on his way back up, but now I'm not so sure. Hollywood Ending describes his career in a nutshell, and it looks bleak.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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