A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Woody Allen's Annie Hall explores new dimensions of the persona Allen has constructed in movies, on the stage, and even in a comic strip. We're all familiar by now with "Woody," the overanxious, underachieving intellectual with the inept social life. We've watched him develop from bits in a stand-up comedy routine to a fully developed comic character in the tradition of Chaplin's tramp or Fields's drunk. We know how "Woody" will act in so many situations that we're already laughing before the punch line. Maybe nobody since Jack Benny has been so hilariously predictable.
And yet there's always the realization that "Woody" is a projection of a real Woody Allen. That beneath the comic character is a certain amount of painful truth. That just as W.C. Fields really was a drunk, so Woody Allen perhaps really is insecure about his height, shy around girls, routinely incompetent in the daily joust with life.
It's not that the "real" Woody Allen is as hapless as his fictional creation, but that the character draws from life by exaggerating it. Annie Hall is the closest Allen has come to dealing with that real material. It's not an autobiography, but we get the notion at times that scenes in the movie have been played before, slightly differently, for real.
Allen plays Alvy Singer, stand-up comic and incurable combination of neurotic and romantic. He's self-consciously a New Yorker, a liberal, a Jew, an intellectual, a seeker after the unattainable, and an expert at making it unattainable. One of Alvy Singer's problems is that he understands this all so well. He's not a victim of forces beyond his control, but their author.