Directed by Woody Allen. USA. 2002.

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Adoring movies as I do, I tend to surround myself with people who have the same addiction, and have become aware of the typical demeanour of each particular breed of admirer. There are those dark, staunch supporters of directors Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) and Wes Craven. (Scream) There are those loyal lovers of Steven Spielberg. (E.T.) There are even oddballs like me who enjoy the work of David Fincher (Fight Club) and Christopher Nolan. (Memento) But, I can firmly say without any reservations, that I have never, ever, encountered anyone as steadfast and loyal as Woody Allen fans, and I just don't understand it. I have tried to enjoy his movies, even appreciate them on some level, and the opinion that I always come away with is that Allen is to acting as Leonard Cohen is to singing. Both are masters of choreography behind the scenes, creating beautiful works from every angle. As Cohen is a brilliant poet and musician, Allen is a gifted writer and director but both of their artistic visions are ruined when they step into the spotlight themselves.

Hollywood Ending is the story of down and out director Val Waxman. Val's movies have been flopping consistently, and just when it looks as though his career is about to flop along with his films, his ex-wife producer gives him a chance to helm her pet project; The City That Never Sleeps. The problem? The stress placed on Val while trying to launch this picture causes him to go psycho-semantically blind.

Hollywood Ending. All Rights Reserved.Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Husbands and Wives) stars as Val Waxman, and here all I have to say is that it's a darn good thing that the boy can direct because the acting gig is clearly not his forte. While only having one character has worked EXTREMELY well for some, (John Travolta, Sean Connery) Allen's grates on your nerves, for his one character is whiny, annoying, and clingy (to say nothing of being totally offensive to everyone from women to Canadians). Val is so atrocious to his ex-wife that it is nearly impossible to see what would have attracted her to him in the first place. There is no charm or spark to Allen's portrayal at all. Instead, all the audience members are left with is the impression that in Allen's every onscreen moment he's thinking, (insert Eeyore tone of voice here) "I know you probably don't like me, and you probably hate this movie, but I'll take your ticket money anyway."

Tea Leoni (Deep Impact, Bad Boys) plays Ellie, Val's ex-wife. Here I kept hoping for some form of a past for Ellie, something to show how she could have possibly become involved with Val in the first place. Sadly that never materializes, leaving you with the feeling that this woman, for all her other strengths, has the romantic sense of a cinder block. (A feeling only intensified by the final scenes.) Ellie is a beautifully played character though, avoiding the trap of making female roles either 100% perfect, or totally dependent on the strong male to support them. Leoni portrays Ellie quite well, giving her a brave face when defending her points of view to movie executives, and letting her be hurt when her current love doesn't see fit to stand up for her. Leoni makes Ellie a character that you want to sit and chat with. (However, the main topic of conversation were I chatting with her would be something along the lines of "Val Waxman....What were you thinking?") 

Debra Messing (The Mothman Prophecies) is once again, a shining spot in an otherwise mediocre movie. Her turn as Lori, Val's ditsy girlfriend is absolutely adorable. She adds an energy and effervescence that balances Leoni's more grounded character perfectly.

My kindred spirit Jillian says that she enjoys Woody Allen films because of his frenetic delivery and the meticulous way that he structures his ideas. I don't disagree with that assessment entirely, it's merely that I am not a fan of his particular style, or maybe it's simply that I don't see his genius in front of the camera. Behind the camera I am in complete agreement, for Allen has a visual style all his own, constructing universes for his characters to play in that are crisp and detailed. The problems arise when Allen steps in front of the camera, as he generally
appears (to me at least) to be making things up as he goes along. Allen's constant stuttering and stammering is, admittedly, initially endearing, but after two solid hours, it switches from charming to insufferable. I had been sitting in a theatre with only one other audience member contained in it, when Hollywood Ending began and about 45 minutes before the film ended she walked out leaving me all by myself. How either appropriate or ironic that the man who had spent two solid hours whining over wanting to be left alone finally was. By his audience. Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.

Jen Johnston
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