Review: Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)


I have two brothers, not sisters, but it’s pretty much the same set of problems!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

I find Woody Allen films are the best examples for why the genre label doesn’t always work. Hannah And Her Sisters for instance is a comedy, but it’s also a drama and a philosophical movie about mortality. I’m not really going anywhere with this, much like Allen I am a man who thinks of random things and is subsequently plagued by them. This just happens to be one of the random oddities that will pop into my head from time to time.

I suppose some people could watch Hannah And Her Sisters and come away thinking it’s the same shtick Allen has been doing his whole career. It is true that Hannah And Her Sisters possesses many of the same traits found in all of Allen’s work, but it is still its own movie. In Hannah And Her Sisters Allen tackles the issue that is always in his movies yet is hardly addressed, the neuroses that drive us and how they affect our lives. This analysis separates Hannah And Her Sisters from other Allen projects, because while relationships and New York are present, they exist as offshoots of the neurotic drive.

What does drive us, are we all a little bit crazy as Allen seems to think? I believe we are, in our own way each and every one of us is just a bit crazy. My Grandpa used to tell me that the people who accomplish anything in life, be it a great pie or a doctorate have to be crazy to accomplish their goal, craziness is what pushes us past the point where we think we can’t go on. Allen takes my Grandpa’s theory even further, in Allen’s world we aren’t just a little bit crazy, we are completely crazy and it is our craziness that allows us to find some stake in the world. Our neuroses drive us, they take us to places we would never go otherwise, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But, as the end of Hannah And Her Sisters shows if you are able to reconcile where you are with the choices you have made then you should end up happy.

Of course there is plenty of humor to be found in Hannah And Her Sisters, provided one finds Woody Allen’s neurotic take on life funny. I do, and there are moments in Hannah And Her Sisters that are downright hilarious. The scene where Mickey informs his parents of his change to Catholicism was so funny I almost had tears streaming down my face. This line in particular sealed the deal for me,

“How the hell do I know why there were Nazis? I don’t know how the can opener works!”

The acting in Hannah And Her Sisters is sure of itself. By that I mean from Michael Caine to Woody Allen, every actor knows their part in the picture. They don’t grandstand or go beyond their part, they fit into their role and allow the movie to play out because of them instead of taking over the movie with their persona.

While watching Hannah And Her Sisters I was struck by how much I have downplayed Woody Allen’s directorial skills over the years. I’ve always recognized his skill as a writer, but for some reason I never gave him much thought as a director. This is a topic I will have to broach as I view more of his material and revisit past Allen viewings. He has an effortless style of framing, in every scene no matter what he understands perfectly how to frame the scene around his characters and where to position the camera to tell the movies story through this placement alone. Allen also is adept at allowing his words to flow in the movie format that is Hannah And Her Sisters. The film feels almost like a novel, with chapter breaks and small moments for exhalation or digestion of what the audience has just seen.

Annie Hall remains at the top of Woody Allen’s filmography, but Hannah And Her Sisters is darn close. It is funny, charming, witty, well acted and looks great, all things one should expect from a prime Woody Allen picture. But, Hannah And Her Sisters may just be Allen’s most adult and cerebral effort. Regardless of how much praise I may lavish upon the feature, Hannah And Her Sisters is a movie that your inner crazy definitely needs to see.




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