On the surface, “Annie Hall” (which I saw tonight as part of the Independent Film Revival group’s series on Directing Dysfunction) and another movie I saw this weekend, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, are about the same basic thing: love and breaking up.
They both feature men who are still at heart boys, and they are both comedies. Both films make use of improvisational dialogue, and both films were written by their male leads. And while I don’t know this for certain about the more recent film, I think they both have been created with a great deal of autobiography.
But what a difference 30 years have made. In 1977, Woody Allen’s take on male insecurity was a nervous energy. He was constantly touching and grabbing Diane Keaton. He paced, he stuttered, he mocked himself and others. Alvy Singer had an aggressive “come here/go away” dynamic with every woman in the movie; his male friendship, however, with Rob was more uni-directional – Rob was constantly trying to convince Alvy to do something against his nature; move to California and avoid death.
Jason Segel’s Peter, on the other hand, plays a more mellow and unaware insecurity. In fact, to my eyes (and this may say more about me than Peter) doesn’t seem insecure at all in the beginning of the movie. It’s not until later, when he’s in the depths of his depression and he encounters the sympathetic, welcoming, and yet tough force of Mila Kunis’ Rachel that I began to see how uncertain he was. I will always hear Rachel’s encouraging shout of “Whoo! Dracula musical! Yeah!” into an otherwise silent bar whenever I’m afraid of taking a step through the next metaphorical door I encounter. And look how it turned out for Peter.
As far as the comedy goes, the jokes in “Annie Hall” are vaudevillian and fall mostly flat to my ears now. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has some rather broad and rather coarse humor, too, but it’s also capable of much more subtle laughs.
I don’t want to turn this into a thesis, though. Just seeing these two movies back to back gave me an opportunity to compare. In the end, I related to the more recent movie far more.
I can’t believe “Annie Hall” won an Oscar. Over “Star Wars”? C’mon.