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ONE OF HIS BEST AND MOST BITTER
on March 21, 2003
This is probably the best of Woody's "bitter" movies (DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS) wherein Allen continued to explore relationships with humor, but with far less of the optimistic, hopeful nature he shows in classics such as HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.
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