Only the willfully blind could deny that Hollywood Ending has its moments

Only the willfully blind could deny that Hollywood Ending has its moments

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.

Hollywood Ending (2002)

Often one-note and at least 20 minutes too long, Hollywood Ending remains undervalued Woody Allen, a trifle that frequently hits a successfully silly groove. In this filmmaking-centric farce, Allen is a demanding hypochondriac director whose Oscar glory is 10 years in the past, and is now renowned for being, as George Harrison’s studio exec describes him, “a raving incompetent psychotic.” Despite that reputation, however, his familiarity with New York helps him nab a Manhattan-set project courtesy of ex-wife Téa Leoni, who convinces Treat Williams’ studio head—for whom she left Allen years earlier—to give him another shot. That set-up alone would likely be enough for a lighthearted comedy, and it results in the film’s funniest sequence, an early script meeting between Allen and Leoni at a crowded restaurant in which the director vacillates on a dime between productive work talk and bitter ranting about Leoni’s adulterous betrayal.

That’s not all Hollywood Ending has to offer, though, since after a prolonged 40-minute set-up, the story’s true conceit is revealed: On the eve of commencing shooting, Allen comes down with psychosomatic blindness and yet, because his career is on the line, keeps it a secret and gets on with the job. This deliberately implausible scenario—which forces him to confide in his agent, then in the translator of his Chinese cinematographer, and finally in Leoni—allows for all sorts of dim-bulb sequences in which Allen bumps into things, gives random directions to cast and crew, and looks the wrong way during meetings with Williams. Yet if there are innumerable dud gags strewn throughout the proceedings, and a third-act father-son dynamic is hopelessly tacked on for narrative convenience, the sheer ridiculousness of Allen actually pivoting a movie around such a goofball conceit remains mildly charming. Moreover, though it’s as broad as his bumbling slapstick, Allen’s industry satire remains amusingly caustic, especially during a throwaway bit in which an underling asks Williams, “Can a hyphenate marry a below-the-line person?” and the bigwig automatically replies, “That’s for legal.”

Availability: DVD and Blu-ray, rental from Google Play, and disc delivery from Netflix.

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