Radio Days (1987) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and brief nudity
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Seth Green, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Michael Tucker, Julie Kavner, Josh Mostel, Danny Aiello, Julie Kurnitz, David Warrilow
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Review published May 22, 2003
A trip down memory lane for Allen (The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose), who lovingly reconstructs the life and times of growing up during in Rockaway Beach, New York in the Golden Age of radio. Radio Days is teeming with nostalgia value, and even if you didn't grow up in that era, Allen does a masterful job recreating the look and feel of the era, such that you'll also be nostalgic even if you've never lived it.
Radio Days doesn't have a core plot, save to show the lifestyle of a Jewish family in the early 40s, and how much the radio enhanced their lives, moods, and brought them together. Told in vignette style, much of the narrative revolves around a young boy (played by a very young Seth Green, Austin Powers), presumably written to represent Woody Allen at that age and time, semi-autobiographical in a fashion. In the mix is a story about a ditzy blonde (Mia Farrow, Supergirl) trying to make it in radio as a singer, giving us both sides of the radio life, inside and outside.
It's not all sunshine and roses, as Radio Days is more of a bittersweet experience. The radio can bring both happiness, such as remembering a time when life was good, but also sadness, where a song will remind you of a long-gone loved one or inform you of the tragedies of the day. Like many nostalgia films, it is very sentimentalized in its delivery, and as is typical of Allen's storytelling style, real-life events are altered and shaped for purposes of creating a funny scene or poignant dramatics.
This world is Allen's playground, and he knows every facet of it, so it's no surprise that he is in his element as a filmmaker. Radio Days is an ambitious endeavor, with no overriding storyline and many characters to keep track of, but Allen wraps it all up with professional ease.
You'll love it for the characters, the sweetness and Allen's wonderful blend of humor and heartfelt drama, making Radio Days one of the best films of his career. It's not as substantial as some of his other works, and will probably quickly fade from memory once it's over, but that's ok...like any fond memory, this is the kind of film you'll probably revisit time and again.
©2003 Vince Leo