Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:54 - Released 5/3/02

If there's anyone who knows about the disparity in filmmaking between Hollywood and New York, it would be Woody Allen. Choosing to address the subject directly, writer/director Allen produces a satire of the movie industry that, while it shows occasional creative strain, contains the biting humor to which we have become accustomed from him, including a fair amount of self-deprecation. In this film, he's not only neurotic and hyphochondriac as usual, he's also a movie director.

The film opens with a brainstorming session among Hollywood producers Ellie (Téa Leoni) and her fiancé Hal (Treat Williams), along with their friend and co-producer Ed (George Hamilton) about who should direct their company's upcoming picture, The City That Never Sleeps. Although Ellie has reservations about Val Waxman (Allen), not only because, in Hal's words, "he's a raving, incompetent psychotic," but because she used to be married to him, she can't deny that he'd be perfect for this picture. "Manhattan is in his marrow," she says, and also, she knows this chance would revive his flagging career. Against their protests, she convinces Hal and Ed to give him a chance, and they offer him the picture. Val, of course, has mixed feelings—on the one hand, he knows this film is perfect for him and could save his reputation, but being offered a job by his ex-wife and the man with whom she had an adulterous affair is not a comfortable idea. Nonetheless, he accepts, and pre-production begins. Val chooses a Chinese cinematographer (Yu Lu) who doesn't speak English, and makes the usual outlandish demands regarding set, lighting, and talent, including casting his current lover (Will & Grace's Debra Messing) in a small role despite her awful acting technique, and sets the date to start production.

Unfortunately, however, on the first day of shooting, Val has a crisis: he goes blind. Whether it's the stress of working on a film with his ex-wife and her millionaire fiancé, or the pressure of having to produce a success to reestablish his position as a sought-after director, he doesn't know. But eye exams, CAT scans, and psychological analysis all confirm that he's perfectly fine from a physical standpoint; his loss of sight is psycho-somatic. Although Val at first feels he must abandon production, his agent Al (Mark Rydell) convinces him this is too big an opportunity to pass up. They devise a plan whereby he'll continue to work on the picture, blind, with the help of the Chinese cameraman's translator (Barney Cheng) acting as his eyes. The plan goes as well as could be expected, with Val constantly tripping over things and never looking anyone in the eye, until the translator is fired and Ellie is forced to become the inside person, which requires that she hide from her fiancé that his $60 million investment is being directed by a blind man. Meanwhile, Val is constantly being dogged by Esquire journalist Andrea Ford (Jodie Markell), whose sharklike investigative skills may lead her to the true story behind this unorthodox production at any moment.

This film is stock Woody comedy, of course, featuring a ridiculous, outlandish situation with him at the center and interjecting various social commentary here and there if one is interested in picking it up. I especially like the line, "Send Haley Joel Osment some flowers congratulating him on his Lifetime Achievement Award." As usual, its supporting cast is adequate (Leoni is especially good), but the talent is somewhat spotty in the smaller roles. Surprisingly, the ending of Hollywood Ending is not very Hollywood, nor very satisfying; it just sort of peters out with an upbeat and entirely unrealistic twist tacked on. But even if this isn't Woody's best, it provides generally solid entertainment, which is something of a rarity these days from Tinseltown. ****

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail