Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: With Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine coming to theaters, we look back on the Woodman's most undervalued movies.
Until 1978’s Interiors, Woody Allen exclusively made comedies; he was the guy who wrote, directed, and starred in slapstick social commentaries like Sleeper and Bananas, and who, just a year before, had a commercial and critical smash with the more serious—but still very funny—Annie Hall. Given the context, it’s no wonder that Interiors was so flummoxing to audiences who wanted to see Diane Keaton in a cute hat and tie. Instead, she plays one of three grown daughters to an older couple in the midst of a divorce—and her parents aren’t the only ones with problems. Keaton fights with her drunk husband, played by Richard Jordan, and the one sister—played by Mary Beth Hurt—who’s in the picture. (The third, played by Kristin Griffith, is mostly absent.) It’s essentially 90 minutes of emotional distress, but presented with such a keen eye that it’s impossible to look away. Though every character is fragile, everyone revolves around mother Geraldine Page, the least stable of an unstable clan. Page plays Eve brilliantly, with a sweet fussiness that masks—temporarily, anyway—her utter instability. When her husband, played by E.G. Marshall, announces his intention to move out, her emotional slide is crushing: First it’s denial, then a suicide attempt, then the indignity of knowing about her husband’s new love interest (Maureen Stapleton, who brings something resembling comic relief by simply not taking herself as brutally seriously as the rest of the cast).
Page was rightfully nominated for an Oscar for her performance, as was Allen for his spare direction: Much of the first half of Interiors feels like a stage play, though one in which characters walk in and out of frame. It’s also purposely colorless: Page’s character is an interior decorator enamored of earth tones (from gunmetal to beige), and almost the only flashes of color in the entire film come from Stapleton’s clothes. That, along with the overly symbolic breaking of a vase, have earned Interiors some criticism for being too on the nose, which isn’t entirely unfair. But the rest of the movie is so starkly bold that it renders those problems insignificant. Sure, it was probably very confusing when it came out—no funny beards, no broad comedy, no non-diegetic sound at all, not even a note of music—but taken out of context, it’s beautiful, affecting, and exactly as jarring as Allen probably intended it to be.
Availability: DVD, rental or purchase from the major digital providers, and disc delivery through Netflix.