Wednesdays with Woody: Hollywood Ending (2002)

“I would kill for this job but the people I want to kill are offering me the job.”

Woody Allen’s third film with Dreamworks plays out like one of his earlier comedies, except with many failings. Allen plays Val, a failed director, who used to be on the cutting edge, now desperate for a job. His ex-wife Ellie (Tea Leoni), now married to a studio head, headhunts Val to direct a particular New York film. With retiscence from most involved, Val ends up shooting the film. Almost half way through the film, the hook of the story occurs: Val suddenly develops psychosomatic blindness. From here, Val needs constant assistance to direct the film, without letting anyone from the studio know the truth (aka enter chaos, conflict and tension).

Hollywood Ending references relationships between audience and filmmakers early on, where Val defends his choices of artistic integrity. One background dinner guest character mentions that if you don’t make films for your audience then what you are producing is simply artistic masturbation. Allen, frequently accused of producing films on a whim, has placed much artistic perceptions of himself in the role. During a discussion of Val’s credentials by the studio heads, executives mention many similar artistic tendencies.

Allen is fine, especially with blindness, but gives nothing special. Tea Leoni misses the mark (despite being a good actress) given the straightest character without anything fun. Treat Williams and Mark Rydell have a better opportunity with more interesting characters and play them as best as they can.

The film’s biggest failing is that it is just not that funny. Despite premiering at Cannes as the opening night film, the performances are lacklustre, with Debra Messing providing the best performance with enthusiasm and exuberance. Messing’s character also notes the largest age gap between Allen and a love interest (thirty-three years to be exact, beating the Mariel Hemmingway age-gap. This doesn’t include the father-daughter type relationship with Scarlet Johansson in Scoop).

Hollywood Ending exists in a succession of films that will be easily forgotten, and considering the body of work of Woody Allen, it is not too hard to understand why.

Read more entries in our Wednesdays with Woody feature!

2.5 blergs



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  • Disagree on this one, James. I found Hollywood Ending to be one of the few comedies that Allen has produced recently that provided a few belly laughs.

    I think it’s because the role he plays is closer to some of the real early stuff he did. Movies like Love and Death, Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, etc. Allen, unlike most comedians, is actually funnier when he keeps the jokes broad and relies on slapstick and physical humour.

    And if you’re going to criticise Allen for casting love interests that are way too young for him, most of his movies would get a fail. The ego that he demonstrates has always irritated me, but I’ve learned to accept that flaw in his film-making and focus on the stuff I like.

    • Glad to hear a different opinion on the film. For me, the film just didn’t connect. But I’m glad it did for you. One of my favourites is Manhattan Murder Mystery which didn’t connect with many people.

      As for the too young criticism, it’s one that particularly stood to my attention. Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow were much closer in age, though still 10 years his junior. I don’t know how the whole Mariel Hemmingway high schooler in Manhattan isn’t mentioned more frequently. Just that concession that is made for a brilliant film.

      Thanks for the comment!
      What’s your all time favourite Allen flick?

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