Watched Apr 01, 2012
Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
After the roaring success (including an Academy Award for Best Picture) of Annie Hall, Woody Allen decided to take his career in a sharp turn, or rather a giant leap to a new field. After a decade of dealing in comedy for his first decade as a filmmaker, Allen presented the world with a new side of him by giving them Interiors. A lot of fans and critics of his met the film with a sharp tongue, seemingly offended by him not offering up another charming, easy-to-swallow comedy as they had come to expect. I, for one, am delighted that he challenged himself in such a way, and the result is anything but delightful. After the wonderful comedic work of Annie Hall, his Interiors is a delicately observed exploration of a trio of sisters who are impacted deeply by their mother.
It's true that he takes a lot of inspiration from Ingmar Bergman in his style here, but it also has that unique touch that only Woody can give a film. He strips it of the enjoyable charm that most of his films contain, but you can still very much tell that this is a Woody Allen film. Allen made some very interesting choices in casting the film, combining regulars of his such as Diane Keaton with newcomers like Mary Beth Hurt and heavy dramatic hitters like E.G. Marshall and Geraldine Page, but the end result is a fluid and fully realized portrait of this family. The family of intellectuals is fractured by their own fragile egos, a discord which is only further cemented when patriarch Arthur (Marshall) announces his plans to move out of the house to live alone for a while, separating from wife Eve (Page). The decision practically cripples Eve, who insists that she can't be left alone and as a result spends her time butting into the lives of her three daughters, played by Keaton, Hurt and Kristin Griffith.
Allen, in a lean 90-minute running time, is able to give the audience his usual league of well-rounded and layered characters, all crafted to work out these themes of familial bonds and conflicts. Allen's ability to write strong, developed female characters has always impressed me and this is perhaps the finest display of his talent for it. These women are honest, aggressive and loaded with faults. He isn't afraid to show the bitter, angry and resentful side of women and he casts his films with actors who are able to properly display that facet of them without turning them into the one-note bitches that often litter mainstream cinema.
Women are often written either as the sexy slut, the adorable girl-next-door, or the annoying bitch, but Allen is able to write them so true. It's long been a shame that females aren't given more opportunities in cinema, but at least there's some small consolation in a male writer like Woody Allen being able to present them so honestly. He's working at the top of his game here as a writer, made even more impressive by the fact that there isn't a drop of humor in the thing at all. He doesn't let you take a pause for a laugh every so often but instead brings you deeper and deeper into the melancholy of these broken lives. The cast is one of his finest ensembles, particularly when it comes to Page and Hurt.
Page, as the incredibly overbearing Eve, is given a character who could have easily been unbearable (and was, for me, at first) but she brings this vulnerability to the role that I found heartbreaking. You can feel the influence of this character in every moment of the film, every tick and emotion that her daughters have, yet she herself is so fragile and alone. It's an absolutely devastating work that resonates deep. Hurt and Keaton play off each other so well, bringing out the faults of each character, the bitter sisterly resentments and attempts at loving that are distracted by their own egos. In a family of intellectuals, it takes the smallest word to break a heart, and this entire cast pulls off that atmosphere with remarkable skill. Interiors is surely one of Woody Allen's best films and such a strong departure for him as a filmmaker. I'm glad that he didn't let the backlash dissuade him from making more films like this in the future, I think this is an excellent display of his range and talents.