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Hannah and Her Sisters

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hannah and Her Sisters
Hannah and her sisters.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWoody Allen
Produced byRobert Greenhut
Written byWoody Allen
Starring
CinematographyCarlo Di Palma, A.I.C.
Edited bySusan E. Morse, A.C.E.
Production
company
Distributed byOrion Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • February 7, 1986 (1986-02-07)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$6.4 million
Box office$40.1 million

Hannah and Her Sisters is a 1986 American comedy-drama film[1] which tells the intertwined stories of an extended family over two years that begins and ends with a family Thanksgiving dinner. The film was written and directed by Woody Allen, who stars along with Mia Farrow as Hannah, Michael Caine as her husband, and Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest as her sisters.

The film's ensemble cast also includes Carrie Fisher, Maureen O'Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan (who died four-and-a-half months before the film's release), Max von Sydow, and Julie Kavner. Daniel Stern, Richard Jenkins, Fred Melamed, Lewis Black, Joanna Gleason, John Turturro, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus all have minor roles, while Tony Roberts and Sam Waterston make uncredited cameo appearances. Several of Farrow's children, including Soon-Yi Previn (who married Allen in 1997), have credited and uncredited roles, mostly as Thanksgiving extras.

Hannah and Her Sisters was, for a long time, Allen's biggest box office hit (forgoing adjustment for inflation), with a North American gross of US$40 million. The film won Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. It is often considered one of Allen's major works, with critics continuing to praise its writing and ensemble cast.

Plot

The story is told in three main arcs, with most of it occurring during a 24-month period beginning and ending at Thanksgiving parties, held at The Langham, hosted by Hannah, and her husband, Elliot. Hannah serves as the stalwart hub of the narrative; most of the events of the film connect to her.

Elliot becomes infatuated with one of Hannah's sisters, Lee, and eventually begins an affair with her. Elliot attributes his behavior to his discontent with his wife's self-sufficiency and resentment of her emotional strength. Lee has lived for five years with a reclusive artist, Frederick, who is much older. She finds her relationship with Frederick no longer intellectually or sexually stimulating, in spite of (or maybe because of) Frederick's professed interest in continuing to teach her. She leaves Frederick after admitting to having an affair with somebody. For the remainder of the year between the first and second Thanksgiving gatherings, Elliot and Lee carry on their affair despite Elliot's inability to end his marriage to Hannah. Lee finally ends the affair during the second Thanksgiving, explaining that she is finished waiting for him to commit and that she has started dating someone else.

Hannah's ex-husband Mickey, a television writer, is present mostly in scenes outside of the primary story. Flashbacks reveal that his marriage to Hannah fell apart after they were unable to have children because of his infertility. However, they had twins who are not biologically his, before divorcing. He also went on a disastrous date with Hannah's sister Holly, when they were set up after the divorce. A hypochondriac, he goes to his doctor complaining of hearing loss, and is frightened by the possibility that it might be a brain tumor. When tests prove that he is perfectly healthy, he is initially overjoyed, but then despairs that his life is meaningless. His existential crisis leads to unsatisfying experiments with religious conversion to Catholicism and an interest in Krishna Consciousness. Ultimately, a suicide attempt leads him to find meaning in his life after unexpectedly viewing the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup in a movie theater. The revelation that life should be enjoyed, rather than understood, helps to prepare him for a second date with Holly, which this time blossoms into love.

Holly's story is the film's third main arc. A former cocaine addict, she is an unsuccessful actress who cannot settle on a career. After borrowing money from Hannah, she starts a catering business with April, a friend and fellow actress. Holly and April end up as rivals in auditions for parts in Broadway musicals, as well as for the affections of an architect, David. Holly abandons the catering business after the romance with David fails and decides to try her hand at writing. The career change forces her once again to borrow money from Hannah, a dependency that Holly resents. She writes a script inspired by Hannah and Elliot, which greatly upsets Hannah. It is suggested that much of the script involved personal details of Hannah and Elliot's marriage that had been conveyed to Holly through Lee (having been transmitted first from Elliot). Although this threatens to expose the affair between Elliot and Lee, Elliot soon disavows disclosing any such details. Holly sets aside her script, and instead writes a story inspired by her own life, which Mickey reads and admires greatly, vowing to help her get it produced and leading to their second date.

A minor arc in the film tells part of the story of Norma and Evan. They are the parents of Hannah and her two sisters, and still have acting careers of their own. Their own tumultuous marriage revolves around Norma's alcoholism and alleged affairs, but the long-term bond between them is evident in Evan's flirtatious anecdotes about Norma while playing piano at the Thanksgiving gatherings.

By the time of the film's third Thanksgiving, Lee has married someone she met while taking classes at Columbia University, while Hannah and Elliot have reconciled their marriage. The film's final shot reveals that Holly is married to Mickey and that she is pregnant.

Influences

Part of the film's structure and background is borrowed from Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander. In both films, a large theatrical family gather for three successive years' celebrations (Thanksgiving in Allen's film, Christmas in Bergman's). The first of each gathering is in a time of contentment, the second in a time of trouble, and the third showing what happens after the resolution of the troubles. The sudden appearance of Mickey's reflection behind Holly's in the closing scene also parallels the apparition behind Alexander of the Bishop's ghost. Additional parallels can be found with Luchino Visconti's 1960 film Rocco and His Brothers, which, besides the connection to its name, also uses the structural device of dividing sections of the film for the different siblings' plot arcs.[2]

Cast (per opening credits)

This page was last edited on 13 September 2020, at 03:27
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