Husbands and Wives
Movie Review #740
Directed by Woody Allen. Written by Woody Allen. Produced by Robert Greenhut, presented by TriStar Pictures – A Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe Production. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 1992. Starring Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. Also starring Sydney Pollack, Judy Davis, Juliette Lewis, Lysette Anthony, and Liam Neeson. Cameos: Blythe Danner, Nora Ephron. A TriStar Release, wide on September 18, 1992. Rated R: language and a scene of sexuality. Runs 108 minutes.
“Husbands and Wives” is a tightly wound soap opera by Woody Allen. Set in New York City, it features a montage of stories about, well, husbands and wives. One of the former being Allen himself as a beloved Jewish novelist (though he thinks much like an atheist), who quickly falls in love with a woman decades younger than him. He’s not the only neurotic in the cast, either. As for any common discussion topics among the cast, they’re foreign cinema, the opera, classical literature, psychoanalysis, the evils of love, the evils of marriage, the joy of sex, and what have you.
I think I’ve made my point. “Husbands and Wives” is a typical Woody Allen movie, and unfortunately, it’s not very much more than that. The script is solid but generic. It’s also a drama, not a comedy. Indeed there are a few of comic bits, but they are present as if to remind us of who’s writing, directing, and starring. And let’s not forget that Woody Allen is a bleak, bleak name. The fact that “Husbands and Wives” lacks so much humor makes it almost too bleak to handle, at times. It’s clear proof that if Allen, a comic by birth and nature, wishes to create a drama, he can only find success outside his comfort zone. Such is the reason “Interiors” and “Match Point” are deemed classics, and “Another Woman” has been lost in history.
“Husbands and Wives” is often paired with the preceding “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” as a “director’s trilogy.” At times, this third entry feels as if it were the strongest of its triad. The array of stories, unlike in either of the other convoluted soap comedies, is surprisingly easy to follow. What’s more, the cast doesn’t hesitate to strong delivery, with Blythe Danner coming out on top of them all. The cinematography, additionally, strengthens the tense effect of the movie. But by the end, the tight screw wrenching the movie together makes the movie seem repetitive and tiresome and extensive and oh so difficult to keep watching once that riveting climax is over. It also feels rather weak.
I’ll admit that “Husbands and Wives” has its moments, both good and bad. The good I’ve already mentioned, and the bad I have too. And I love Woody Allen from the bottom of my heart, so when I spend half of an Allen movie coming up with ways things could have worked out better, it’s pretty uncomfortable to keep on watching. Substance-wise, this IS the same master who spun out “Annie Hall”. Quality-wise, it’s far from it. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano