Annie Hall (1977) was advertised in its trailer as “A Nervous Romance.” It records the romance of Alvy Singer and Annie Hall, two characters based on the real lives and personalities of the actors who play them, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Singer is a Jew from Brooklyn, Annie is a gentile from the Midwest, and while we know from the first frames of the film that this is a romance that will not last, it maintains interest by way of its intelligent characters.
Much has been written about why this movie is one of the great American films: for a standard review by a critic who appreciates it, take a look at Roger Ebert’s 2002 essay on the film.
Looking at Annie Hall specifically as a Jewish film, it is interesting to watch for the interfaith tensions in Alvy and Annie’s relationship. In an early scene with a friend, Alvy talks about his antennae for anti-Semitism: he has a tendency to see it everywhere, and it frightens and worries him. Annie states flatly during an early date, that her Grammy doesn’t like Jews, and we see him pause for a moment and digest this information; in the heat of this new relationship, he allows it to pass. But the issue surfaces again when he meets the family at Easter lunch.
Annie has her own difficulties, as Alvy embarks on a campaign to improve her (ironically, to make her more like his Jewish ex-wives.) This film, however, is from Alvy’s point of view: we don’t know exactly how Annie feels about the differences between them, for instance when he flinches as she orders pastrami on white bread with mayo. We see what she does, but except in a one scene (when they are first falling in love) we do not have the benefit of hearing her inner voice.
Do you think that Annie Hall offers an accurate picture of the challenges that a couple face when they meet across cultural differences? If so, was the relationship really doomed, or could it have been salvaged? How?
If it isn’t an accurate picture of the challenges in an interfaith relationship, where does it go wrong? How is it a false picture?