One of the greatest pleasures of Woody Allen's early work is his ability to skewer himself while skewering the conventions of the comedy genre. Annie Hall is perhaps the best example of this: a blend of slapstick, fantasy, and bittersweet romantic comedy, it is not so much about two people falling in love as about two brains trying to negotiate a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. The neurotic, self-obsessed commentary on display in Annie Hall is pointed but relatively gentle, free of the bitterness that sometimes marked Allen's later work. The film is a series of insightful musings that leave the viewer feeling strangely optimistic--or at least very amused--about human nature. Much of this is due to Alvy and Annie themselves--unlike the oddly but perfectly matched couples fated to walk off into the sunset in the majority of romantic comedies, Alvy and Annie are consigned to further introspection, obsessive analysis, and bittersweet reflection. Part of the appeal of Annie Hall is that there are no pat answers: in watching the struggles of the characters, we see a reflection of our own struggles, without the condescending message that everything will be fine in the end. Annie Hall elevated Allen to the forefront of contemporary filmmakers, promoting him from a comedian who happened to make films to a comic filmmaker. The film also set a new standard for romantic comedies, its name alone becoming synonymous with the sub-genre of the intelligent, New York-based romantic comedy. On a less far-reaching scale, it also launched a fashion trend, with Diane Keaton's baggy menswear providing a welcome alternative to polyester pantsuits and flared trousers, anticipating the craze for androgynous clothing by almost twenty years.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review