HUSBANDS AND WIVES is crisply written and extremely well performed. Everyone is terrific, but Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack truly shine. They are married, but he dumps her for a very young woman. Davis finds herself on the dating scene again, but even as she goes on her first date, she is dealing angrily with her estranged husband.
Mia Farrow and Allen are another disfunctional ex-couple. Throw into the mix nice, single man Liam Neeson, whom both women lust and fight over, and you've got a nice stew of relationships.
The movie is VERY funny, but is tinged with bitterness throughout. Occasionally, the movie is presented as a sort of documentary, where the main characters are answering questions directly into the camera, but this device is a bit of distraction. It's a minor thing, though.
Truly, the script is sizzling, but it is the performances that make this movie unforgettable. Judy Davis was nominated for an Oscar, but Farrow is very good as well, and it is a hoot to see Neeson in such an early role. Pollack could have been nominated as well, and Allen gives what is probably his last great performance (possibly excepting DECONSTRUCTING HARRY).
Allen fans must see this film. It's one of his most important. If you're not an Allen fan, I suggest starting with a "kinder, gentler" film such as ANNIE HALL or MANHATTAN or HANNAH... before taking on this one
I can't imagine anybody still in the "honeymoon" stage of a First Great Love appreciating this movie. For those scarred by years of relationship campaigning, much of Allen's view may ring all-too-true. I won't say how many times I saw myself, my wife, and ex-lovers plastered against the screen.
Throughout the movie, individuals and couples long for intimacy, for lasting passion, for refreshment, but end up settling for comfort, manipulation, and denial. I wanted to scream. I hoped, hopelessly, for hope--this is, after all, a Woody Allen Movie--but was left, in the end, with Gabriel (literally "God's Hero") telling viewers that love, romance, and passion can only exist as a neurotic and fleeting figment of experience.
Damned if I'm willing to settle for that. And perhaps that's the great strength of this movie. It could, after all, be a satire, not about mid-life-crisis-men seeking youth through young lovers, but showing, in the crassest relief, how barriers and little deceits ultimately lead to destruction and misery in relationships. And maybe that's where the hope lies, in learning to be honest in a way that none of Allen's characters can be, not even with themselves.
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