In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There’s something about it that just makes it so easy to watch.”
Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.
“Talk is what you suffer through so you can get to sex.”
Woody Allen has been around for so long and made so many movies, that he’s probably had the equivalent of four or five careers as a film maker. Complete with hits, misses, slumps and comebacks. A few years ago, I made my way through his entire filmography and liked pretty much all of it. One thing it taught me though, was that while I can enjoy dark stuff like Match Point, or serious drama like Blue Jasmine, I much prefer Woody at his silliest. And I don’t just mean his early, classic comedies like Sleeper or Bananas. I think I’m one of the few people who actually liked To Rome With Love. It’s that preference for wacky Woody that made me so quick to snap up a copy of Hollywood Ending when I saw it in the video shop’s closing down sale.
Ellie (Tea Leoni) is a Hollywood producer on the verge of making her dream project. A tribute to New York City, she’s convinced that the only person to direct it and really capture the city in all its glory is Val (Woody Allen). Once a multi Oscar winning big shot, Val has stepped on too many toes over the years and is now resorting to filming a TV commercial in a Canadian blizzard. The other reason that Val is a tough sell, is that he’s Ellie’s ex-husband. Which makes Val not too popular with the head of the studio, Hal (Treat Williams), who also happens to be Ellie’s current fiancé.
Despite all that, Ellie gets her way and Val gets the job. Hiring a temperamental Chinese cinematographer who doesn’t speak a word of English, a picky production designer who wants to build a life sized set of the entire Bronx, and promising a role to his actor girlfriend (Debra Messing as Lori), Val puts plenty of hurdles in his own way. But the worst comes a day or two before they begin shooting, when Val wakes up one morning and is blind. Diagnosed as psycho sematic and caused by stress, there’s nothing to do but wait. But knowing that this is his last chance in Hollywood, Val’s agent Al (Mark Rydell) convinces him to bluff is way through it. Yep, a blind man directs a movie while trying to make sure no one finds out he’s blind. Hence this movie’s place firmly in the wacky column of Allen’s resume.
Besides the broad comedy premise, I also love movies about movies. So I really was predisposed to like Hollywood Ending. In fact, since the Woody Allen binge a few years ago, this is one of the few movies I’ve re-watched. I’d never call it anywhere near one of his best, but there’s something about it that just makes it so easy to watch. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t ask too much from you as a viewer, but that doesn’t mean it’s slight or inconsequential.
I also think it’s one of Allen’s best looking movies of the new millennium. There’s a golden glow to every frame that makes everything look like a dream version of New York and LA. And it’s a story so perfectly suited to Woody Allen’s exacerbated schtick. When you want prestigious Woody, you can always go back to Annie Hall, or Manhattan, or Crimes and Misdemeanors. But when you want a fun little piece of escapism, Hollywood Ending is a great choice.