“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)

By Daniella Nichinson, Staff Writer

Over two Thanksgivings, we explore the personal lives of Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her sisters. Hannah’s husband, Elliot (Michael Caine), is secretly in love with her sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey). Holly (Dianne Wiest) is a former dope addict who wants to be an actress. Finally, Mickey (Woody Allen), Hannah’s ex-husband, is a hypochondriac who is trying to find the meaning in life. Personally, because deciding between “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” is nearly impossible, “Hannah and Her Sisters” is my favorite of Woody Allen’s films.

There is a scene when Holly and her friend, April (Carrie Fisher), are given an architecture tour of New York by David (Sam Waterston), a man both of them want to date. Perhaps this long montage of extraordinary buildings was for Woody Allen to showcase the allure of the city he calls home. From the Jefferson Market Library to the New York Yacht Club, this scene captures places from downtown to uptown, and everywhere in between.

As in the majority of Woody’s films, there is always the mention of fine art. In this case, Lee is in a relationship with Frederick (Max von Sydow), a Swedish artist who is much too intense and hyper-intellectual. He lives in the typical industrial loft that every New York artist lives in and it is incredibly appealing. There is a record player in the center of the room and the apartment is scattered with paints and canvases. It makes the life of an artist seem more enticing than usual.

Woody Allen highlights the differences in the type of New York that two opposite personalities live in. Shortly after his divorce from Hannah, Mickey goes on a date with Holly, who, at this point, was still snorting cocaine and was at an impasse in her life. Holly drags him to a drug-filled night club with a punk rock band performing—not the sort of place that one might expect neurotic Mickey to be in. When it is his choice of venue, however, the two go to a classy restaurant with a jazz pianist. This also serves as a commentary for how New York was changing from the 1940s city that Woody grew up in.

After a failed suicide attempt, Mickey roams the streets, trying to catch a breath, until he walks into a movie house. Naturally, the film that is playing is a Marx brothers picture, who were one of the greatest inspirations for Woody Allen’s comedy. It is in this theatre that Mickey realizes there are joys in life, not just miseries. In each of Woody’s films, the movies have always been a source of happiness and solace. New York is not as well-known as a “movie town” as is Hollywood, but on many occasions, Woody shows us its superiority as a hub of films, with small and classic theatres.

Though overall melancholic, “Hannah and Her Sisters” solidifies the notion that life is worth living. Despite the love triangle among Hannah, Elliot and Lee never being resolved, Mickey and Holly experience the joy of life. The film ends with the conviction that sometimes love is the only answer.


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