Radio Days (Woody Allen) 1987
Woody Allen has a rep of being dark and intense but as evidenced by Zelig, Midnight and Paris, and now with Radio Days, he can be straight up cute when he wants to. Radio Days is unapolagetic nostalgia for nearly 90 minutes. The movie follows the Woody Allen stand in family, his nostalgic memories of radio, and a few stories of some of the big stars.
The unfair comparison I will be making for this movie is that it feels like Cinema Paradiso but with radio instead of cinema. The unfair comes in that while Radio Days is a good film it is not on the same level as Paradiso. I guess if I had to pick a flaw with the Days over Paradiso it would be with a narrative. Radio Days is more a series of vignettes where in Paradiso it is a fully realized story. We follow Toto as he grows up and as we follow him through this important period in his life we see how much cinema played a part in it. Even though we may not have seen the movies Toto has seen we connect with the emotions he is going through. In Radio Days it feels like we are sitting down with Woody Allen as he tells amusing anecdotes about radio. Now don’t get me wrong, the stories are all cute and funny but they don’t have the same emotional resonance. Radio Days is good where it could have been really great with some rewrites.
The movie looks very good as Allen captures the time period. The costumes and the sets and the actors all do their part in transporting you into the idealized memory of the narrator. Now granted radio has changed as a medium so I can see some of the audience maybe not getting into what the big deal was. However I think Allen gets around that by making his stories universal. We can relate to a quirky family or working hard for a toy you always wanted or gossip about some big celebrity. It is not hard to swap in your mind radio with television where different family members had different shows and events you followed. So I really don’t see it as an alienating factor.
I feel like I am doing this movie a disservice with a rather short review. There is nothing complicated about the movie but it all simply comes together well. All of the vignettes are interesting, sweet, and funny. There was not a bad or boring part in the film and it kept my interest throughout its brisk running time. The performances are all very good and the production is great. While I didn’t fully love it, this was a very good sentimental trip. I see this being worthwhile to everyone including non-Woody fans.