Monday, March 28, 2011
A loves B. B loves C and is good friends with A. A has a crush on C but C is a self-obsessed writer who can't care about A or B. This one sentence broadly captures the essence of two-thirds of all scripts Woody Allen has written in his lifetime. What still makes him special enough to have won more screenwriting Oscar nominations that any other in history, is his inventiveness in conjuring up a context for A, B and C that would be funnily unique. To cite a few examples, if there's a murder in it, it's a Manhattan Murder Mystery. If there's a tribute to Casablanca, it's a Play it again, Sam.. If it's about his shot on the concept of the seven-year itch in marriages, it's a Husbands and Wives.
And if it's about a daughter who is trying to emerge from the spotlight of a flamboyant actress mother, it's a September..
Made in the mid-1980's, a time when Woody Allen was at his most prolific self, the movie tells us the story of Lane (Mia Farrow), a middle-aged woman who is recovering from a depression of sorts. She is not able to decide what to do in life. The crush she had on her tenant Peter ( Sam Waterston) is not taking a more meaningful course and more importantly her mother, an ex-actress, wants to move into the very house Lane wants to sell. The story is pretty much based on the two days the mother visits Lane and the viewer is made aware of a deep seated romantic tension between Peter and Lane's best friend Steph (Dianne Wiest). All this happens without much dramatic license but through long-drawn but meaningul conversations between the characters. I couldn't help but wonder how low budget the movie must've been considering all the action happens in one location - Lane's house.
The structure of the movie is fairly simple and straightforward, much like your average play in the local theater. Unlike, your average Woody Allen movie though, this one doesn't have so much of humor as much as human emotions of love and longing being played out. Whether it's Peter, Lane or Steph, their quest is common- a good companion to call their own. It's a tailor made fit for Mia Farrow as she comes across a genuinely aggrieved lady who is trying to put the pieces of her life together. Elaine Stritch too puts in a convincing performances as the protagonist's mother with a devil-may-care attitude. Dianne Wiest, a Woody favorite doesn't put a foot wrong in the movie either. The ladies always crack it in Woody Allen movies and this one's no different. So what goes wrong in September? Nothing really but just like the movie doesn't have anthing to dislike upfront, it fails to provide anything exceptional to like either.
September is one of Woody's shortest movies and it seems to be a movie that could possibly have been made in a hurry. It might not be the hottest movie on the subject of adult relationships that he ever made but in spite of it's all-too familiar theme, it surely deserves it's place amongst all the other Woody Allen movies for it's sheer simplicity.