Hollywood Ending

UK release date: Sep 8 2009

cast list

Woody Allen
Tea Leoni
Treat Williams
Debra Messing
George Hamilton
Barney Cheng
Mark Rydell

directed by
Woody Allen

Woody Allen plays a New York filmmaker named Val Waxman. Once a popular andrespected writer/director in the 1970s & 80s, Waxman has been reduced tomaking deodorant commercials in Canada. However, a Hollywood comeback may bein the works for him from the two people he would least expect it from: hisex-wife, an executive named Ellie (Tea Leoni) and Hal, a studio chief (TreatWilliams) who stole Ellie away from him. The film is to be a remake of anold film-noir that Ellie feels Val would be perfect for (Hal at first says”no way” but is eventually gives in). Despite Val’s auteurist demands suchas hiring a foreign cinematographer who doesn’t speak English, a screenplayrewrite (that he will do himself) and a lead role for his untalented butattractive girlfriend Lori (Debra Messing), Waxman gets the job.

Just as the production is set to go, however, Val develops psychosomaticblindness brought on by stress. Not being able to afford to lose this job,which would spell the end of his career, Val calls on the help of his loyalagent (real-life director Mark Rydell), his cinematographer’s translator(Barney Cheng) and eventually, Ellie, to help him direct the film.

All too obviously drawing yet again from personal experience, Allen couldhave really made a witty, caustic spoof on Hollywood here. Every so often,there is a film industry related joke that is quite funny, but overall theopportunity is missed. Instead of Tinseltown satire, we have to sufferthrough a rather unfunny and unconvincing second half dealing with Val’sblindness. With the exception of one unexpected sight gag (no pun intended),this section only shows that Allen is far better (or at least he used to be)at cerebral comedy than he is physical.

Much like last year’s Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, the ensemblecast here seems to be coasting through the film, rarely showing the sort ofenergy or enthusiasm that accompanied Allen’s earlier work. Williams,Messing and George Hamilton, as a studio “yes man”, turn in near-comatoseperformances while Allen is, well, just being himself. Only Leoni and Rydellactually attempt to give their characters a bit of life, but they too arecrushed under the blas aura of the production.

One of these years, perhaps Woody Allen will catch us off guard andpresent us with another Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan orTake the Money and Run, something that seamlessly combines theintelligence and laughter we enjoyed on a regular basis from the Woodman.Hollywood Ending, however, is not that sign of life we are lookingfor. To quote Pink Floyd, it’s just another brick in the wall.

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