When awards season rolls round, romantic comedies generally don’t get to see much of the action. Since Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1978, only a select few have come close: Shakespeare in Love and Forrest Gump were memorable winners, while other films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Juno managed nominations. However, Annie Hall has more in common with La La Land, the musical that was nominated for 14 awards at this year’s ceremony and walked away with five.
Damien Chazelle’s choice to end La La Land with Seb and Mia going their separate ways was a decision that broke the hearts of many who watched it. We expect an ending that makes us instantly happy without having to think about it – a couple coming together is one of those things that constitutes a happy ending, although as Chazelle rightly pointed out, love should be such a big part of the film that it doesn’t end when the film ends. Woody Allen does the same thing in Annie Hall, choosing to have Alvy and Annie break up and instead focusing on how people can still affect our lives even if they’re only a part of them for a short while.
One of the great things about Woody Allen’s films is his mixture of fantasy and reality, which he uses in Annie Hall to turn the rom-com genre on its head. Instead of following the usual rom-com trope of presenting the romantic situations the characters find themselves in as fantasy, Allen gives us romance in a realistic setting, using comedic but natural dialogue to set up the idea of romance as something that everyone (hopefully) experiences.
The comedy in Annie Hall, although occasionally still slapstick (like the infamous cocaine scene), is more dialogue-based than situational, making for a far more relatable watch than many films of the same genre which seem to think that everyone always starts off by hating their partner. Funny as it may be to watch two people who can’t stand each other gradually fall in love (only to fall out again at some point), it seems genuinely funnier and sweeter to watch a couple who get on from the moment they meet and watch the relationship grow and change from there.
This all may sound a bit heavy for a light-hearted look at love, especially when compared to La La Land, but the magical moments are all still there in Annie Hall with the same frequency as they appear in modern day rom-coms – the subtitles, the lobster-cooking scene – but between these are moments that may seem normal to everyday life, or even moments that seem too dark to include at first glance. Allen places experiences that are deeply sad throughout the film, like Annie calling Alvy to come over because she misses him, or Alvy trying to recreate spontaneous moments with other girls, that lift the lighter and sweeter moments all the more.
Annie Hall may be 40 years old this year, but it still holds up as a great romantic comedy, that is simultaneously hilarious, sweet, and at times unexpectedly sad, with an ending much in the same vein as La La Land – love survives long after the credits roll, because we know that Annie and Alvy have influenced each other and the small part of their lives we’ve seen onscreen will send them off on different paths once the movie is over.