best films: #34: HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)
I’m going against the grain with this one, and I’m proud of it. Though Annie Hall held a place earlier in the countdown, it is, alas, not my favorite Woody Allen piece of filmdom. When it comes down to it, my favorite Allen work is 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters. Aside from its obvious ensemble appeal (Dianne Wiest! Michael Caine! Mia Farrow! Oh my!), it’s a genuinely comically touching film, which is not always the case with Woody’s movies. From the doting wife and mother Hannah (played with dowdy brilliance by Farrow) to the artsy beauty Lee (played by the now-missing Barbara Hershey) to the occasionally coke-snorting struggling actress Holly (played with utter comic genius by the wonderful Wiest), the sisterhood at the core of the movie isn’t hardly as played up as their separate lives, particularly with their paramours. That’s where Michael Caine, as the bumbling, professorly husband to Hannah, Elliot, comes in – well-earning his first Oscar here. But where would this fantastic cast be without the words of Woody? Say what you will about how he writes his characters and the major age differences in the screen romances, but in the ’70s and ’80s (and with a little resurgence in this past decade), Woody certainly had a knack for crafting a unique story about men and women simply living (albeit hilariously). Hannah is the selfless centerpiece whom we all admire yet would never want to become, Lee is the free and aimless spirit whom we know all too well in ourselves and others, and Holly is the sister truly taking a journey – she goes from being a self-absorbed drama queen to finding her passion and running with it. There’s something for everyone in Hannah and Her Sisters.