DreamWorks Distribution | Release Date: May 3, 2002
6.5
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Generally favorable reviews based on 21 Ratings
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7
SpangleDec 27, 2016
Honestly, I am a major Woody Allen apologist. His films always make me laugh and provide fantastic entertainment, as such they receive positive reviews. Hollywood Ending is one such film. Derided as overlong, the film tells the story of aHonestly, I am a major Woody Allen apologist. His films always make me laugh and provide fantastic entertainment, as such they receive positive reviews. Hollywood Ending is one such film. Derided as overlong, the film tells the story of a neurotic film director who suffers from psychosomatic blindness and tries to direct his comeback film entirely blind. Featuring Woody Allen in his classic neurotic role in one of his films, the film pairs him with Tea Leoni, who plays his ex-wife and a producer that scored him his last chance. Off-kilter, funny, overlong, and not long enough, Hollywood Ending is certainly lesser Allen, but that is more a credit to his track record than a criticism of this film.

A critical and box office bomb upon its release in 2002, Hollywood Ending is certainly not for everybody and does not necessarily deserve a reappraisal. The main criticisms regarding its humor and its length are both fair. With less effective jokes than his best films and with his humor being divisive anyways, the mixed reception makes sense. For the most part, it does feel as though Woody is directing this very film blind as it largely runs through the same framework and characters as his past works. He is hardly reinventing the wheel here and much of the fun is simply derived from the thought of a man directing an entire film blind. This joke runs thin when the film gets closer and closer to the two hour mark and the film would have been well-served by being shorter. That said, more time spent actually showing us how the film turned out would have been incredibly entertaining and given additional context to the poor reception from test audiences and studio executives. They are repulsed, but I need to know if this is Battlefield Earth bad or just disappointing. Fortunately, this negative reception does lead to the best joke of the film regarding the French reception to the film and how critically praised it was over there. Given that the Cahiers du Cinema top 10 list is always good for including a critically panned American film, this joke really landed with me. That said, the jokes are hit-and-miss and the film's premise loses steam.

Fortunately, the jokes that do work are really up my alley. Classic Woody Allen jokes abound here with silly, subtle, and witty jokes combined with visual gags. The simple pleasure of watching this man try to direct while blind was entertaining on its own, as was Allen's neurotic performance. Though it is a character he has played many times now, in this case, the film was very reflexive. With the director being a demanding guy who is hard to work with, runs over budget, works with exes, and wants to use foreign cinematographers, it is hard to not compare the character to Allen himself. From what I understand, he is not nearly as neurotic as his acting persona, but all the same, the other traits stick. The end result is a film that is quite reflective on his career and the industry as a whole.

However, the best scenes are certainly when Val Waxman (Allen) is forced to try and hide his affliction from the studio. Stumbling around and bumping into things, the scenes wreak of desperation and highlight how much Val needs the gig directing this film. In these scenes, the commentary on the industry is also at its best with a lot behind-the-scenes moments of contract negotiations, management of talent, and working on the film. As a lover of film, I ate these scenes up and this film really show why I like showbiz films. Woody Allen knows showbiz and brings it to life in this film, even following through on the self-reflexivity of the film with a unique twist on the "hollywood ending". Though not strictly happy and neat, the ending is certainly hopeful and upbeat compared to the neurosis of the rest of the film.

Funny and compelling, Hollywood Ending is probably just a film for Woody Allen fans. All other need not apply because it not nearly funny enough or short enough to really hit a large demographic of film fans. Yet, for Allen fans such as myself, Hollywood Ending is a fun and engaging comedy that explores the nuances of Hollywood and offers a somewhat behind-the-scenes look at how it is making a film and working alongside Allen in real life.
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