Annie Hall

Critical analysis

Love, sexuality, and Jewish identity

Sociologists Virginia Rutter and Pepper Schwartz consider Alvy and Annie's relationship to be a stereotype of gender differences in sexuality.[35] The nature of love is a repeating subject for Allen and co-star Tony Roberts described this film as "the story of everybody who falls in love, and then falls out of love and goes on."[5] Alvy searches for love's purpose through his effort to get over his depression about the demise of his relationship with Annie. Sometimes he sifts through his memories of the relationship, at another point he stops people on the sidewalk, with one woman saying that "It's never something you do. That's how people are. Love fades," a suggestion that it was no one's fault, they just grew apart and the end was inevitable. By the end of the film, Alvy accepts this and decides that love is ultimately "irrational and crazy and absurd", but a necessity of life.[36] Christopher Knight points out that Annie Hall is framed through Alvy's experiences. "Generally, what we know about Annie and about the relationship comes filtered through Alvy, an intrusive narrator capable of halting the narrative and stepping out from it in order to entreat the audience's interpretative favor."[37] He suggests that because Allen's films blur the protagonist with "past and future protagonists as well as with the director himself", it "makes a difference as to whether we are most responsive to the director's or the character's framing of events".[38] Knight believes Alvy's quest upon meeting Annie is carnal, whereas hers is on an emotional note.[39] Despite the narrative's framing, "the joke is on Alvy."[40]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker notes the film's "Eurocentric art-house self-awareness" and Alvy Singer's "psychoanalytic obsession in baring his sexual desires and frustrations, romantic disasters, and neurotic inhibitions".[41] Annie Hall is viewed as the definitive Woody Allen film in displaying neurotic humor.[42] Singer is identified with the stereotypical neurotic Jewish male, and the differences between Alvy and Annie are often related to the perceptions and realities of Jewish identity. Vincent Brook notes that "Alvy dines with the WASP-y Hall family and imagines that they must see him as a Hasidic Jew, complete with payos (ear locks) and a large black hat."[43] Robert M. Seltzer and Norman J. Cohen highlight the scene in which Annie remarks that Annie's grandmother "hates Jews. She thinks they just make money, but she’s the one. Is she ever, I’m telling you.", revealing the hypocrisy in her grandmother's stereotypical American view of Jews by arguing that "no stigma attaches to the love of money in America".[44] Bernd Herzogenrath also considers Allen's joke, "I would like to but we need the eggs", to the doctor at the end when he suggests putting him in a mental institution, to be a paradox of not only the persona of the urban neurotic Jew but also of the film itself.[32]

Emanuel Levy believes that Alvy Singer became synonymous with the public perception of Woody Allen in the United States.[45]


Annie Hall "is as much a love song to New York City as it is to the character,"[46] reflecting Allen's adoration of the island of Manhattan. It was a relationship he explored repeatedly, particularly in films like Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).[5] Annie Hall's apartment, which still exists on East 70th Street between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue is by Allen's own confession his favorite block in the city.[47] Peter Cowie argues that the film shows "a romanticized view" of the borough, with the camera "linger[ing] on the Upper East Side [... and where] the fear of crime does not trouble its characters."[48] By contrast, California is presented less positively, and David Halle notes the obvious "invidious intellectual comparison" between New York City and Los Angeles.[49] While Manhattan's movie theaters show classic and foreign films, Los Angeles theaters run less-prestigious fare such as House of Exorcism and Messiah of Evil.[48] Rob's demonstration of adding canned laughter to television demonstrates the "cynical artifice of the medium".[48] New York serves as a symbol of Alvy's personality ("gloomy, claustrophobic, and socially cold, but also an intellectual haven full of nervous energy") while Los Angeles is a symbol of freedom for Annie.[46]

Psychoanalysis and modernism

Annie Hall has been cited as a film which uses both therapy and analysis for comic effect.[50] Sam B. Girgus considers Annie Hall to be a story about memory and retrospection, which "dramatizes a return via narrative desire to the repressed and the unconscious in a manner similar to psychoanalysis".[51] He argues that the film constitutes a self-conscious assertion of how narrative desire and humor interact in the film to reform ideas and perceptions and that Allen's deployment of Freudian concepts and humor forms a "pattern of skepticism toward surface meaning that compels further interpretation". Girgus believes that proof of the pervasiveness of Sigmund Freud in the film is demonstrated at the beginning through a reference to a joke in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, and makes another joke about a psychiatrist and patient, which Girgus argues is also symbolic of the dynamic between humor and the unconscious in the film.[51] Further Freudian concepts are later addressed in the film with Annie's recall of a dream to her psychoanalyst in which Frank Sinatra is smothering her with a pillow, which alludes to Freud's belief in dreams as "visual representations of words or ideas".[51]

Peter Bailey in his book The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen, argues that Alvy displays a "genial denigration of art" which contains a "significant equivocation", in that in his self-deprecation he invites the audience to believe that he is leveling with them.[52] Bailey argues that Allen's devices in the film, including the subtitles which reveal Annie's and Alvy's thoughts "extend and reinforce Annie Hall 's winsome ethos of plain-dealing and ingenuousness".[52] He muses that the film is full of antimimetic emblems such as Mcluhan's magical appearance which provide quirky humor, and that the "disparity between mental projections of reality and actuality" drives the film. He considers self-reflective cinematic devices to intelligently dramatize the difference between surface and substance, with visual emblems "incessantly distilling the distinction between the world mentally constructed and reality".[52]

In his discussion of the film's relation to modernism, Thomas Schatz finds the film an unresolved "examination of the process of human interaction and interpersonal communication"[53] and "immediately establishes [a] self-referential stance" that invites the spectator "to read the narrative as something other than a sequential development toward some transcendent truth".[54] For him, Alvy "is the victim of a tendency toward overdetermination of meaning -- or in modernist terms 'the tyranny of the signified' -- and his involvement with Annie can be viewed as an attempt to establish a spontaneous, intellectually unencumbered relationship, an attempt which is doomed to failure."[53] Geluld cites the flashback to Alvy as a child (in a therapist's office with his mother) as an example of basic problems (poverty, discordant parents) being masked by a supposed existential crisis.[55]

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