Hollywood Ending (review)

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Manhattan Project

Ugh. Woody Allen has officially become unbearable with Hollywood Ending. The icky, uncomfortable, skirt-chasing dotage into which he began to sink in last year’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion continues unabated here, and it’s compounded by a blatant disregard for logic, humor, or character development when such might take the focus off Woody himself.

*thwack thwack thwack* The sound you’re hearing is that of Woody Allen masturbating in public.
Woody Allen– I mean, Val Waxman is a washed-up movie director who has to resort to shooting deodorant commercials to make a buck. Then his ex-wife, Ellie (Téa Leoni: Jurassic Park III, The Family Man), who sold out to Hollywood and is now a powerful studio exec, offers him a can’t-miss script. Why? her boss and fiance, head of Galaxie Films Hal (Treat Williams: The Devil’s Own) wants to know. Good question. Ellie insists that Woody– I mean Val, the quintessential New York filmmaker, was born to shoot this script, which is called Pretentious Manhattan Period Piece, I think. What’s disgustingly obvious from frame one is that Ellie is, of course, still wildly in love with Val. Perfectly understandable: Ellie and Val were married for 10 years, and they’ve been divorced for another 10 years, which means that Ellie got hitched to Val when she was about 14, and we girls know how strong that first puppy-love experience can be.

Ellie’s got competition, though, in the terrifying Lori (Debra Messing: The Mothman Prophecies), a vapid wannabe actress who lives with Val for reasons unexplained (except that all nubile young women in Allen’s fantasy world find him irresistible), and the utterly mystifying Sharon Bates (Tiffani Thiessen), whom Val is directing in PMPP, who throws her nearly naked self at Val. I needed to be hosed down, I felt so unclean after that scene.

Watching Hollywood Ending, I understood why non-New Yorkers hate New York. The endless string of swipes against the entire world beyond the shores of Manhattan Island come off as bitter low blows, especially since not a hint of what makes New York so great comes across onscreen. Allen probably thought it would be funny to step outside the Kaufman Astoria Studios for a few exterior shots before shooting the rest of the damn film inside. It isn’t.

Maybe he thought it would be funny, too, to keep from us what Pretentious Manhattan Period Piece is about, until late in the game, when a sudden revelation about the script just happens to coincide with a sudden revelation about Val’s life. Way to go, Woody: Audiences always appreciate having vital information withheld from them until the eleventh hour. This is usually called poor writing, as is the reluctance to take the focus off Val for one nanosecond and maybe give some serious screen time to people like George Hamilton, who is obviously game to make fun of himself when he can steal a moment on camera, or the amazing kid who plays the Chinese interpreter. (It’s not worth going into, but the Chinese kid deserves his own movie.) If Joe Blow from Topeka had walked into a studio exec’s office with the screenplay for Hollywood Ending, he’d had been escorted off the lot by security. Woody is given free reign to do as he pleases because back in the Jurassic he made decent pictures. *thwack thwack thwack*

Maybe Woody thought it would be funny, too, to have Val go psychosomatically blind just as shooting on PMPP is beginning. Maybe it would have been funny, if Val had actually been able to shoot the thing blind, like Ellie insisted he could. Instead, it’s a muddle of incoherent garbage. Kinda like Hollywood Ending itself. It’s enough to make you go psychosomatically blind, actually.

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