Hollywood Ending (2002) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some drug references and sexual material
Running time: 112 min.

Cast: Woody Allen, Tea Leoni, Treat Williams, Debra Messing, George Hamilton, Mark Rydell, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen
Small role: Greg Mottola

Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Review published December 24, 2002

Many of Woody Allen's (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Small Time Crooks) works mirror events going on in his life at the time and Hollywood Ending is no exception.  Over the last 15 years, Allen has had a love/hate relationship with the Hollywood establishment, especially feeling shunned after the scandalous relationship with his wife's much younger adopted daughter. Allen is now of a mind to let bygones be bygones, and Hollywood Ending would note a cathartic healing process on his part to see things in a newer and better light.  The result is a film that will most likely split opinions for many viewers, with his fans understanding the underlying message of the film while still being a little bored by the fact that he's covered quite a bit of the same ground before.  People who aren't very familiar with Allen's works may be split in the opposite way, not really understanding the metaphors while also feeling it is fresh and innovative work that's different from other movies out there these days.

Allen plays Val Waxman, coincidentally a director who has seen his better days behind him, but after losing the ability to make crowd pleasers for the studios, he has been reduced to taking on jobs directing television commercials to make ends meet.  His ex-wife (Leoni, Jurassic Park III) left him for one of the Hollywood studio bosses some years back, but when a script rolls in that has potential for good success, she thinks Val would be the perfect director for the job.  Val has some artistic ideas, but they are quickly nixed by the studio, who want more mass appeal for their money.  Val wants badly to get back into the limelight again and concedes, but a psychosomatic case of blindness sets in, and Val can no longer see what he's doing.  Embarrassed by his plight and not wanting to lose the job, he tries valiantly to keep things secret, but the studio execs want to see the dailies, which probably won't look too pretty when there's a director filming without vision -- literally.

As mentioned previously, Allen directs with use of metaphors to parallel his work since falling out of favor with the Hollywood establishment.  Some of this is displayed with Waxman's relationship with his estranged son (Mark Webber, People I Know), who is a wild and flashy guy (like Hollywood) that ended things for a while by pushing daddy down a flight of steps when they couldn't see eye to eye.  Like Waxman, Allen has spent most of his time since making films without the former critical acclaim or commercial success, having lost his clout and much of his fan base.

Hollywood Ending is a Dreamworks production, as Hollywood as one might get, and the collaboration marks a coming together again for Allen, who also decided to attend the Academy Awards this same year after a lengthy, self-imposed exile.  As there are underlying themes to the film, it is of particular interest for fans of Allen, but most others watching the film may be lost to the symbolic nature of the proceedings and may find the film a bit too odd or uninteresting to be fully entertaining.

Hollywood Ending is for fans of Allen's who haven't left his side altogether, but probably isn't must-see viewing for those unfamiliar with his life or those who gave up on him years ago.  It's a little longer than it needs to be, but there's quite a bit of funny parts and quotable lines of a pithy nature that almost makes it worth watching regardless of the actual storyline.  Woody Allen may no longer be heralded as a genius in the industry, but there's still a lot of creative juices flowing in his veins for more good films to come.  Here's to hoping that Ending marks a new beginning for him..

 Qwipster's rating:

©2002 Vince Leo