||Play It Again, Sam
1972 - PG - 85 Mins.
|Director: Herbert Ross|
|Producer: Frank Capra Jr., Arthur P. Jacobs, Charles H. Joffe|
|Written By: Woody Allen|
|Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Jerry Lacy, Susan Anspach |
|Review by: James O'Ehley
This 1972 Woody Allen comedy uncomfortably straddles two worlds, namely that of Allen’s earlier slapstick work (such as “Bananas” and “Take the Money and Run”) and his later more mature romantic comedies such as “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan.”
Woody Allen plays, well, Woody Allen. The cast list gives his character as one Allan Felix, but the truth is that Allen has basically always played the same bumbling, neurotic nebbish. The nebbish in this case is a film buff and writer. Felix practically inhabits a world of movies, mostly Black & White efforts starring the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
If you haven’t seen “Casablanca”, “The Big Sleep” and other Bogart tough guy movies, then a lot of gags in “Play It Again, Sam” would be lost on you. (Of course, the movie’s title is a line associated with “Casablanca”, but the truth is that it is actually misquoted. The correct line spoken by Ingrid Bergman in the movie is just a plain “play it”.)
Bogart’s typical tough guy role is of particular relevance here since in his private fantasies, Felix is visited by Bogart’s ghost who offers him advise on romantic affairs. Felix’s love life – or rather – lack of it is the movie’s focus. Recently he has been dumped by his wife of two years (a character much more vivacious than him – whatever did she see in him?) and he finds himself in the dating game again.
Along the way he is helped by his best friend (played by Tony Roberts, who would repeat a similar role in “Annie Hall”) and his wife (Diane Keaton). The obvious happens: Allen and Keaton fall in love, and if you remember “Casablanca” well enough, you will have a good idea of how the plot is resolved.
Plot however isn’t the reason why anyone goes to sees a Woody Allen flick, but one-liners. The one-liners in “Play It Again, Sam” do not disappoint. They are hilarious and the best scene involves a girl Felix tries to pick up in an art museum (where else?). Priceless.
However, the few moments of slapstick involving an impossibly clumsy Felix remain the movie’s nadir. These scenes simply do not gel with the rest of the movie and are mostly unfunny.
“Play It Again Sam” is recommended to Allen fans. They would be obviously interested in this atypical movie which (a) he didn’t direct and (b) is probably the only Allen film that is not set in New York, but in San Francisco instead.
Neophytes are advised to check out the brilliantly funny “Love & Death”, “Annie Hall” or “Hannah and Her Sisters” instead.
Anyone who has however anguished over whether to put on a Bartok string quartet or Oscar Peterson to impress visitors to one’s home should immediately check out “Play It Again, Sam”.
I couldn’t resist. Here is the dialogue from the scene in which Allan tries to pick up a girl in an art museum:
Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollack, isn't it?
Museum Girl: Yes, it is.
Allan: What does it say to you?
Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?