Val (Woody Allen) is a director that has had a recent string of failures. His ex-wife Ellie (Tea Leoni) pulls some strings in order to get him the latest big film to get him back on track. A problem arises though when Val develops psychosomatic blindness on set.
I hope you like one joke because that is all this movie has to offer. The joke being repeated is how Woody stares blankly in the distance instead of looking someone in the face and he also trips over things. I’m sorry I don’t have much to dissect and analyze but that is the long and the short of it. We have Woody Allen stumbling around for two hours. You know, one of the things I admired most about Allen prior is his sense of timing for a movie. I said before he was probably hard wired by his experience as a stand up to get in and out with the material as fast as possible. Most of his movies hover around 90 minutes as a result (with some comedies barely at 80 minutes) and I am very grateful. There is usually no fat on his movies and they move at a very brisk pace. Real life Woody Allen must have suffered a brain injury because he thought this movie had so much material, he couldn’t possible trim this from 112 minutes. Just for some perspective, Crimes and Misdemeanors, a philosophical musing about morality and justice in the universe is about 100 minutes. This movie about Woody bumping into chairs is 12 minutes longer than that.
This is all contingent on the physical humor in this movie being funny. Comedy is of course a subjective thing, but in my opinion this is so not funny. Maybe because I think of slapstick as being a young man’s game. It is something to see for example Jim Carrey flopping around and getting hit and quite another to see a late 60’s Jim Carrey get the shit beat out of him. One of these is cartoonish, and the other is elder abuse. But the other thing is this physical humor isn’t varied or fresh. A physical comedian could think of entire set pieces around a person being blind. This is an extreme example but Charlie Chaplin I’m sure could make a movie about a blind guy going here and there or playing a sport or driving a car etc. In Hollywood Ending, Allen thinks it is the height of hilarity that Woody can’t look someone in the face because he is blind. Of course, that joke doesn’t work either because a blind person can fucking hear someone and point their face in the direction where someone is talking. It is also so gut busting to see Woody bumping into furniture. It is not. You are no Buster Keaton Woody, you are not even Mr. Bean.
Even his dialog isn’t funny anymore. Much like in Jade Scorpion, we have a scene where Allen and Leoni establish their relationship, and it is just as agonizing. I think there is a big difference with how Allen treats his women now as in the past. In the past, Allen was always very self deprecating. He was willing to take as much as he gave out. But here, Allen comes off as a very bitter and cruel old man. Prior to this scene Ellie begs the studio exec to hire Val again. And keep in mind, Ellie had no ulterior motives here. She was doing this out of the kindness of her heart. Ellie meets with Val to lay out the groundwork of the movie. The „comedy“ of this scene is that Ellie wants to get to business, but Val interrupts by ranting about how she left him. Again, all that we know up to this point is Ellie is a nice girl who did an altruistic act and Val is making a complete and utter ass out of himself by yelling at a soft spoken woman in the middle of a crowded restaurant. What an asshole. Then he completely screws the movie by filming it blind costing the studio exec millions. Allen wants us to rejoice this because the studio exec is supposed to be an asshole. But we see nothing but the fact he is a loving boyfriend who gave a failing director a break because he is a nice guy. Wow, what a fucking asshole. And we have to sit through nearly two hours of this unlikable asshat as he makes everyone’s lives miserable through unfunny physical comedy? Oh joy! No no, please Woody, I want the three hour extended edition please.
Okay I am starting to rant and I’ll stop. Point is Hollywood Ending is shallow and unfunny to say the least. There is just not enough imagination to keep this premise going 90 minutes let alone 112 minutes. What was once effortless, now is a Herculean effort to even elicit one chuckle from me in a two hour film. This part of his career truly is the pits.