It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Woody Allen. I find him one of the most consistent filmmakers of our time and one of the funniest men of all time. Allen’s wit and mind for comedy is surely one of a kind. Allen’s offbeat look at Hollywood gets mashed together with a funny story about a director suddenly going blind in Hollywood Ending, the 2002 comedy. The film didn’t do well in America and was perceived as a relative flop, but much like the ending in the film, it received a good deal of success and accolades overseas.
Allen stars in his film and it’s his vintage character. He plays a neurotic and insistently nervous film director, Val Waxman, that has had moments of past brilliance but has since faded into relative obscurity. We first find Waxman directing a commercial in snowy Canada (ha ha) and pining that he has one two Oscars and is now reduced to this. Meanwhile, Waxman’s ex-wife, Ellie (Tea Leoni), is working to try to give Waxman another chance at making a hit. Ellie thinks that Val is the perfect choice to direct a film that she wrote, so she tries to convince her Hollywood bigshot boyfriend (Treat Williams) to enlist Waxman. Eventually Waxman is hired on to direct, but the pressures of directing and being in this tricky situation working with his ex-wife and for her new boyfriend get to him and he develops psycho-somatic blindness right before shooting.
Waxman calls his agent (Mark Rydell) and tells him about this disturbing new development and the pair decide that there’s no way that Waxman can tell anyone about his blindness or it’ll ruin his big chance at a comeback. A plan is decided upon for Val to work the film blind as a bat and, with the help of the translator of his cinematographer, Waxman sets out to work on the film. Of course, the running gag here is that Waxman doesn’t look all that out of place making the film blind and his neurotic behavior actually serves as a subterfuge. Sure, the cast and crew think he’s a bit goofy to work for and question some of his decisions as a director, but overall they have faith in the final product and continue to do what he wants. Waxman’s film that he creates while blind still winds up getting completed and pieced together.
The film contains many of the typical Hollywood pratfalls that many “insider” films include. Waxman’s younger girlfriend, played by Debra Messing, is an aspiring actress who can’t act. She is, however, given a part in the film by Waxman and nobody questions his logic because of his status as an “auteur”. The running gag in the film is essentially that many Hollywood productions could actually be helmed by a blind director and many of the crew and performers around would hardly know the difference. This gag, coupled with the backstory of Ellie and Val’s past relationship, make the film quite entertaining although nowhere near the top level of many of Allen’s other wonderful films.
Hollywood Ending is peppered with the usual array of classic one-liners and quite a bit of funny physical comedy, making it entertaining enough to pass the time. Nothing in the film resonates for long enough, however, making it instantly forgettable for the most part. Hollywood Ending is still miles better than most other comedic films out there and is a great looking film with wonderful cinematography and great vision. The acting is good, too, from top to bottom. Unfortunately, there is something lacking to the cohesive nature of the film that causes it to lose ground as it proceeds. It is almost as though the film is slightly to crowded and that Allen decided to pile more on top of more, leaving the film somewhat overcrowded and blurry.
The film steers clear of a lot of the typical Hollywood entities and is free of foul language and crude humour, making it an accessible comedy for most audiences. It is still largely adult, of course, because of its wit and humour. Never one to take his audience for a fool, Allen mindfully makes his films so as to not alienate his audience. Hollywood Ending is no different, yet it lacks the same punch that we’ve come to expect from one of my favourite filmmakers of all time. Nevertheless, an average Woody Allen film is still better than the best of many other filmmakers.