September (1987) Woody Allen
Production Budget: $10 million
Part of the reason why I do the other feature of my blog (the box office bomb reviews) is because I like to find hidden treasures. Those movies were ignored for one reason or another and I hope to look past all the irrelevant reasons and see if it is actually any good. So when it comes to the lesser known or lesser appreciated Woody Allen films, I come in with the same good intentions. I probably enjoy Interiors a lot more than most Allen fans would give it credit for. I was hoping that September would be another film that, while not ranking among his other masterpieces, I could really enjoy. Boy was I wrong.
This is one of Allen’s more infamous failures. Allen always wanted to do a chamber piece and he originally shot the movie with Maureen O’Sullivan, Sam Shepard, and Charles Durning. Allen hated the finished product so much he re-wrote the screenplay, hired a new cast of Elaine Stritch, Sam Waterston, and Denholm Elliot, and re-shot the film all over again. This is probably the lesson to take on why Woody Allen has not had much trouble making films in his 40 or so years. Even his big failure which caused him to re-shoot an entire film and grossing the lowest of any Woody Allen film is still not a bad beat. If you look at some of the bombs we are talking about 80, 100, 150 million dollar debacles but Woody will continue to plod along with his small budget films and investors will always bet on a record like Allen’s.
Viewing the trailer beforehand, it occurred to me it was probably the worst trailer I had ever seen for a movie (and no I don’t have an official list anywhere). There was no action, no lines of dialog, and I think I only saw one person’s face. However, all the blame can’t be put on the person who cut the trailer. There is not much of anything to note about this movie. This feels like the Chicken McNugget of Woody Allen films. You get the skin and whatever else people don’t want from a chicken, grind it up, form it into a lump, fry it, and you have something you can eat with enough weak ass barbeque sauce. In the case of September, you have the summer house with a few love triangles ala Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, you have a domineering mother subplot ala Interiors, throw in all the usual Woody Allen character types (troubled writer, Woody’s mother, someone who philosophized about God, etc.), and boom you are eating a Woody nugget. But where you might be able to choke it down with some sauce like some jokes in a comedy, here we have nothing. I am choking on Woody’s dry nuggets.
This feels so uninspired and dull. None of the dialog has any of the charm or wit you are used to. The monologues are dry and are fit so awkwardly into the narrative they might as well flash things like “THIS IS HOW WOODY FEELS ABOUT GOD AND THE UNIVERSE“. And again, normally he can make it more interesting even in his dramatic movies like Crimes and Misdemeanors. Here it evokes a whining emo kid cranking up the Linkin Park and cutting his arms. I’ve been an atheist for years now and have had nothing near the “Woe is me life is empty“ crap Woody sometimes devolves into. Just goes to show how good writing can make something interesting and thought provoking and lazy writing can make you want to slap the writer on the face with a fish.
We just go through the motions with the love triangles working themselves out in completely passionless ways. There is a moment at the “climax“ of the movie where Mia Farrow’s character explodes with all her pent up emotions and frustrations. Normally this would be an alright moment in another Woody Allen film but with all the nothingness around it this was like the freaking gun fight in Heat. And then the movie ends with nothing really changing. That is one of my pet peeves with a movie as I show in my tirade against Immortals. I ask very little but the one thing I do ask is don’t waste my time. At the end of the movie all the characters are in the exact same place with nothing learned or anything to show for it. They are all the exact same failures we saw at the beginning of the film.
This is easily my least favorite of the retrospective so far. There are tiny moments here and there that are nice and I like the acting from Wiest, Farrow, Waterston, Stritch, and Elliot. This movie though has nothing special or noteworth about it: no outstanding performances, no memorable exchanges or speeches, and a completely nothing plot. I can’t even see myself recommending this to die hard Allen fans. This was a dud in every respect.