A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 276 – Play It Again, Sam

Play It Again, Sam – December 1st, 2010

Upon learning that it was Woody Allen’s birthday we decided to do one of our two Woody Allen movies tonight. I’ve always had a limited tolerance for Allen’s schtick. It’s solid comedy of embarrassment and that sort of thing often gives me a bad case of contact embarrassment. But we do own a couple of his movies and even though this was a short one and we’ve been trying to reserve short movies for my evening shifts we popped it in tonight.

Now, I know I’ve seen bits and pieces of this movie before. I’m sure I have because I remember the Casablanca references. Maybe it was when I watched Casablanca in a film class or something. Alas, we don’t own Casablanca, so we can’t follow this up with that. It’s a glaring gap in our collection, actually. Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. We have an odd lack of classic cinema. I suppose they’re all things we’ve watched with other people or in classes and seen so often in so many other places we just never thought to buy them for ourselves. Strange, really, when you consider what we do own.

Then again, after watching this tonight I find myself a little apprehensive about going back and watching some Bogart. It’s been years since I last saw either of the movies I mentioned above and I honestly can’t remember just how many casual mentions there were about violence towards women. If the imaginary Bogart in this movie is any indication then “popping a dame in the jaw” would be fairly common. He says it a bunch of times, like it’s this idealized thing a “real man” should be able to do to a woman. Every time that or something similar was mentioned it caught me again. The matter-of-fact and used-for-humor tone in which mentions of hitting and raping women are said completely threw me out of this movie. Given how much of this movie is homage to Bogart and Woody Allen’s character’s obsession with him, I admit it makes me nervous.

It frustrates me to no end that there’s so much in this movie that pisses me off. The whole conversation about rape isn’t just awkward, it’s painfully unfunny. The scene in the bar with the two bikers gives me a full body cringe. And all the talk about punching. It’s just so pervasive and it’s a damn shame because there’s some truly funny stuff in here. While Allen’s comedy of embarrassment thing isn’t my favorite gag in the world, he’s truly made it an art form. Some of his little film-inspired imagined scenarios are fantastic. There’s great throwaway bits with some of the minor characters. It’s good stuff! It’s funny! I did laugh quite a few times through the course of the movie. And then imaginary Bogart would show up and I’d wince.

The plot involves the very neurotic Allan (played by Allen – totally not playing himself, right?) trying to find a new girlfriend after his wife leaves him. While he attempts to date (and fails miserably) he spends a lot of time with his good friends, married couple Dick and Linda. Dick’s a workaholic and Linda and Allan get along great since they’re both full of neuroses and awkwardness and I think it’s pretty obvious where that’s headed. Through it all Allan is obsessed with becoming this bizarre manly ideal as epitomized (in his head) by Humphrey Bogart. He’s even got an imaginary Bogart who pops in every so often to advise him. Of course, his imaginary ex also shows up, but not nearly so much. And so the movie goes. Allan goes on one horrible date after another, botches every conversation he tries to start with a woman, and ends up falling for his best friend’s wife.

I actually really love the ending of this movie. It’s so fitting and so well played and it incorporates the Casablanca references so perfectly. In a movie about a man who finds the perfect woman for himself only to find that she’s taken, there are a couple of ways it could have played out. And the way it does play out isn’t the fairy tale ending a lot of modern romantic comedies would toss in there, but it’s just right for this particular story. I like the overall story, to be honest. I’m not terribly fond of the specifics of how it goes sometimes, but the story itself is solid, and so is a lot of the humor. Even the dated comedy of Dick constantly calling his workplace to let them know what number he can be reached at still has a certain kind of nostalgic appeal to it. But there’s just so much tossed in there that makes me mad. If I could ignore it, I’d have enjoyed this a great deal more, but I can’t ignore it and I don’t think I should have to.

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December 1, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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