Hollywood Ending – a trite, ugly, and self-indulgent tangent into the complex neurosis of one of American’s greatest film directors – stands as Woody Allen’s biggest failure in a decade.
Allen plays Val Waxman, a two-dimensional, washed-up film director with a bad case of hypochondria and a reputation in the industry that is on par with Michael Cimino. In order to resurrect his career, Waxman’s ex-wife Ellie (Téa Leoni) persuades her studio bigwig boyfriend Hal (Treat Willams) and his over-tanned studio executive cronie Ed (George Hamilton) to hand over the directing duties of their new big-budget noir remake set in Manhattan. Once the deal is done and the directing duties fall into his hands, Waxman’s various neuroses finally catch up with him, and he ends up suffering (along with the audience) from psychosomatic blindness.
With his career and the picture in jeopardy, Waxman enlists the help of his agent Al (Mark Rydell), the cinematographer’s Chinese translator (the excellent actor Barney Cheng, who the filmcritic.com staff have become oddly fanatical about), and even his ex-wife/producer Ellie, to help guide the rickety ship to a safe port without the suits finding out about his malady.
From this point on, Allen’s surprisingly predictable screenwriting rears its ugly head, veering into Chevy Chase pratfalls and cheap one-liners, made even worse by a cast of B-movie chuckleheads like Treat Williams and George Hamilton.
After the first twenty minutes, the film repeats the scenes of Allen playing the blind guy, stumbling around furniture and choosing inappropriate props, his pandering toward much younger girls, and the co-dependent relationships among Waxman, his ex-wife, and his agent – it’s all so very trite.
My analysis of Hollywood Ending is that Woody Allen attempted not to mock the Hollywood studio system but rather to explore his own narcissism and self-indulgence. Hell, it worked plenty well for Woody in the past, why not now?
Screened at the 45th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival.
Allen, with fetish.