on June 10, 2002
He's not happy with her, their friends aren't happy with each other, the friends break up, he flinging with his aerobics instructor, she, trying to indulge in an editor, while everybody self-consciously tells the viewers what they will not tell their (ex-)spouses. We see manipulation posing as truth, vulnerable facades imitating intimacy, lust mimicking passion, and discover, in the end, that perhaps the only true desire in a Woody Allen movie is to dodge happiness & to take pleasure in the misery of knowing that it probably wouldn't have worked out anyhow.
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.
(If you'd like to discuss this review or DVD in more depths, please click the "about me" link above and drop me an email. Thanks!)
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
on May 30, 2000
A married couple strolls into a Manhattan apartment and announces--to another married couple--that they've decided to split up for a trial run--just to see what it would be like to be single again...An obvious dramatic conceit? Watch and see...
This is a superb Woody Allen drama from the early 90s, and it's kind of like Alvy and Annie fifteen years later--had they made it to begin with. We all know, even before the black screen with the 1940s jazz soundtrack appears, that Allen's characters are dissatisfied, whimpering, anxiety-ridden Manhattanites who think they deserve better--in love and in life--and therein lies the genesis of each character's dissoluteness and [im] or [a] morality. That's a key question for the student of Woody Allen's films: do we have the right to think we deserve better? See what the characters have to say about it. Judy Davis turns in a marvelously comedic and dramatic performance--worthy of the Oscar! I'm not a Sydney Pollack fan--he's icky--but as Judy Davis's husband, he turns in a great performance as a dissatisfied husband who wants a little more out of life--something other than being married to a cold-in-bed, cerebral Simone-de-Beauvoir type brilliantly played by Davis. They're an explosive couple who ultimately realize the meaning of marriage--even if they can't pinpoint it exactly in every context. Mia Farrow does a good job in this film--for once she acts--maybe the realness of her real-life situation (remember the scandal? )with her adopted daughter brought out real emotions that were captured on-screen. If you're interested, read Farrow's biography ("Things Fall Away"--available from amazon.com), and she'll pinpoint for you the scenes she acted in after her knowledge of the Woody/SoonYi affair. Allen in this film is Allen--a writing professor who has a slight thing for Juliette Lewis, a New York debutante/student-of-Allen's on the eve of her 21st birthday--her name is Rain and she's named after Rilke--what do you think is the significance of that? She brings out the stormy and tempestuous side of love--but, as Lewis's character says to Allen, "Well...I'm worth it." The only disappointing casting in this film is Allen's casting of the horse-faced, lumpy and dumpy obvious-as-a-limmerick Liam Neeson who ends up with Farrow in the end. They deserve each other.
This film will certainly make you rethink marriage--heterosexual marriage anyway. But then again, maybe you got that from watching mom and dad...get this video instead. At least these characters are given witty dialogue and know the importance of opera and theatre--so if love fails, at least there's that...
on July 8, 2004
Never has a movie about relationships hit so many nerves on so many levels. It takes guts to view this film with an open mind. I takes familiarity with relational boredom and heartache to understand it completely.
Woody Allen delves into the minds and dysfunctional lives of two and then four couples with the deftness of a ninja in "Husbands and Wives." Rarely have I seen such candor in depiction of the seven year itch. It is a place in time that will be familiar to many couples given the opportunity for honesty and will likely create interesting if not brutal debate in the most secure of unions.
The hand held camera used in many of the scenes are not for those prone to motion sickness. Nonetheless, it creates an intimacy and urgency that grant the film credence at its most passionate moments.
Each of the characters is someone that the viewer probably knows in situations that they would never discuss, leaving him both baffled and sympathetic.
I highly recommend the film to those viewers able to be honest enough and possibly brave enough to face their most intimate relational demons.
on April 11, 2001
Leonard Cohen wrote, "We asked for signs / The signs were sent / The birth betrayed / The marriage spent." "Husbands and Wives" may be the best take yet on the all-too-familiar conjugal derailment. In a form of self-assessment that sinks Allen like a fondue stick into the Underworld of the Self-Involved, the film manages to make us roar even as it dices up its players, Allen included. Pollack and Davis are particularly superb as their characters' marriage unravels. All of their pent-up acerbity shoots to the surface and just floats there, each spouse becoming more rancorous, brittle, desperately buoyant, and (to us) hilarious. Only a master like Allen could make something so awful seem so funny. The biggest joke, of course, is on Allen himself, but the fact that he knows his laugh lines so well makes the movie painful to watch. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity--but nothing is more vain than the middle-aged man seeking to confirm his sexual viability with a young woman--one who is as hungry for approval and as self-absorbed as the man she sleeps with.
on July 10, 2000
I really love Woody Allen. I haven't seen all of his films or anything, but "Annie Hall" and "Sleeper" are among my top ten favorite movies of all time. I think the seventies was his best decade. The eighties also proved productive, but the nineties, middle of the road. He definetly had his moments ("Everyone Says I Love You" and "Sweet and Lowdown") but he also had some stinkers ("Deconstructing Harry" and "Celebrity"). I decided to see this movie based on good reviews and my almost unwavering love of Woody Allen. I watched it the whole way through, waiting for it to get good, but I'm sad to say, it never did. I found the characters to be annoying and the continual strife between the characters was not pleasent to watch and got old after a while. I don't even think it was that effective. Woody was as always, excellent, and Juliette Lewis and Mia Farrow pulled their weight, but I thought Judy Davis, an actress I'm not to fond of anyway, was miscast. I also did not care to much for Liam Neeson's and Sydney Pollack's performance. Not a movie I would recommend to a 70's Allen fan, but if you liked "Deconstructing Harry"... See "Interiors" or "September" instead.
on October 17, 2000
When watching Woody Allen films you have to understand that his movies piece together like a beautiful mosiac. You see reaccuring themes and characters and conflicts. Allen's films are all amazing, though some of them I care for more than other's, they are all, in a sense, classic.
In "Husbands And Wives" we in get into the lives of two couples in a docu-drama type of way. You feel like you're really watching these things unfold, like you're really part of the action. Afer many years together Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis are calling it quits, splitting up. They tell Woody Allen and his wife Mia Farrow, and they go nuts. "How could this be happening?" After their breakup Allen and Farrow start examining their own marriage and see that they also strive more in life. As Allen and Farrow's relationship is slowly crumbling, Pollack meets a young vegetarian zodiactic gymnist, and after much anxiety Davis meets Liam Neeson, a middle aged man who also just went through a serious relationship. As Allen falls in love with one of his students (Lewis) and Farrow falls for Neeson. We see relationships and dreams fall apart and new ones rise up.
In the end this movie is a wonderful piece of art about marriage and how important it is, and if we truely believe we want to marry someone, we should think it out ALOT ahead of time. It is also about living a life worth living. Being alive and vivacious, and living each moment to the fullest. In the end you see that marital relationships aren't about romance and sex, it's about companionship.
on April 11, 2001
Leonard Cohen wrote, "We asked for signs / The signs were sent / The birth betrayed / The marriage spent." "Husbands and Wives" may be the best take yet on the all-too-familiar conjugal derailment. In a form of self-assessment that sinks Allen like a fondue stick into the Underworld of the Self-Involved, the film manages to make us roar even as it dices up its players, Allen included. Pollack and Davis are particularly superb as their characters' marriage unravels. All of their pent-up acerbity shoots to the surface and just floats there, each spouse becoming more rancorous, brittle, desperately buoyant, and (to us) hilarious. Only a master like Allen could make something so awful seem so funny. The biggest joke, of course, is on Allen himself, but the fact that he knows his laugh lines so well makes the movie painful to watch. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity--but nothing is more vain than the middle-aged man seeking to confirm his sexual viability with a young woman--one who is hungry for approval and as self-absorbed as the man she sleeps with.
on May 13, 2000
Husbands and Wives traces the trials and tribulations of two couples as they come to grips with marriage, separation, dating and reconciliation. This film is similar to previous Woody Allen efforts, with its emphasis on witty dialogue, New York locales and character driven story.
The film delves into the varied reasons for marriage as well as the reasons for separation. As the couples break up and reform, we see that they don't know very much about marriage and they (like us) just have to muddle through as best as they can.
You may find that you don't like the characters very much; they are the sort of people that one finds on any city street -- torn with doubts, not very happy but not very sad, they are "the average human" trying to make his or her way in an often bewildering world.
My quibble with the film was the amount of hand held camera; while appropriate to the story, I found myself reaching for Dramamine on more than one occasion.
on June 4, 2002
I will start by saying this, to all the men and women who are in destructive relationships and they know it(!) but have been trying to fool themselves into believing that things will eventually 'work out', please see this film.
Yes its a typical Woody Allen movie, with his deeply intelligent insight into human relationships, but unlike alot of his films, I was actually angry when I finished it. This is no shortcoming of the movie let me tell you, but rather a shortcoming of people (myself included) in general. It was so hard to watch the characters in the film, Sydney Pollack, Mia Farrow, Juliette Lewis, Liam Neeson, etc...enter situations that they knew were doomed from the begininng, out of desperation and loneliness.
Obviously me feeling so strongly after the film shows that it is a subtly powerful film about human relationships and how stubborn we all are when we want something but know its not good for us. See this film please!!!!