Romance classics: Annie Hall


Image: United Artists
Image: United Artists

If you fancy a romantic comedy that’s actually funny, you can’t go far wrong with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. One of Allen’s best-known and best-loved films, it follows comedian Alvy Singer (played by the man himself) as he looks back over his relationship with the eponymous Annie (Diane Keaton) and tries to figure out why it broke down.

Flitting between New York and Los Angeles, we traverse their relationship from beginning to end with insights into their younger lives too, before they ever set eyes on each other. It all sounds a bit heavy for a rom-com but I promise you, not many films will make you sputter with laughter as often as this one.

And the central romance feels totally believable, too. Woody Allen plays Woody AllenTM, blessed with a devastatingly sharp wit but plagued by his neuroses about women, sex, being Jewish, and about his neuroses. To all intents and purposes he and mid-western, über-quirky aspiring singer Annie should never work as a couple, but there’s a reason Allen and Keaton have paired up on screen so often over the years – they just gel together so unexpectedly well. Your mileage may vary with Annie’s ‘la-di-da’ demeanour (an actual verbatim quote from the movie), but she just manages to err on the side of endearing for me.

Yes, it was released nearly a whole four decades ago – and it may take some concentration not to be distracted by Tony Roberts’ bouffant ‘70s mane – but it all still feels very modern, not least because Allen constantly plays with cinematic convention, breaking the fourth wall and stepping into his and Annie’s pasts with as much ease as he steps into his therapist’s office. And just as importantly, the jokes are as hilarious as they ever were (also, look out for a young Christopher Walken and a brilliant blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by Jeff Goldblum).

It’s maybe not the film to watch with your loved one if you’re just embarking on a budding new romance, but it’s always a handy benchmark for judging potential partners – if they don’t laugh once, you might want to rethink your choices. Or send them to watch The Sorrow and the Pity instead (but don’t be late).

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