Deconstructing Harry

The eternally prolific Woody Allen once again stars as a neurotic, unhappy artist trying to come to terms with his messy, hedonistic personal life. The twist this time is that Allen is also a whoring, pill-popping alcoholic with a vocabulary of profanities that would put Henry Miller to shame. Unfortunately, the newer, raunchier Woody Allen seems to be a lot like the old Woody Allen, albeit sans redeeming qualities. Deconstructing Harry is a mess: a shambling, narcissistic, sexist romp that is, worst of all, almost entirely devoid of laughs. Allen's desire to take chances is admirable, but the film's relentlessly vulgar, self-reflective tone comes off as less an attempt at bracing honesty than a desperate, vaguely pathetic attempt to remain artistically vital in a film culture that may have passed him by. Worse still, given Allen's gift for writing good roles for women, is the collection of atrocious female characters here: Almost every woman in Deconstructing Harry is presented as either a shrill, shrieking, castrating shrew or a happy-go-lucky hooker. The one exception is Elisabeth Shue, who has the privilege of playing the doe-eyed, pouty-lipped, stunningly beautiful ingenue whose deep, passionate love of Allen is tempered only by the fact that she knows she will never, ever be good enough for him. There are a handful of amusing gags in Deconstructing Harry, but not nearly enough to make this self-indulgent, hateful little film worth seeing.

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