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Twin Cities Times - To Woody with Love Review

One Thing or Another
by Elaine Hamill, published on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 11:38 AM PDT

I saw Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” and I wish it had been wonderful.

But in fact, it seemed stale, dated and desperate, with the still ingénue-ish Ellen Page shamelessly cast in some time-warped Diane Keaton role, playing a ditsy, overly articulate woman who seems out of place in this decade and more suited to something from the ’70s with a Helen Reddy soundtrack.

The story lines were protracted. His stable of actors underused. Alec Baldwin moved like a drunken bear. The whole thing was kind of meh.

But so what?

Soon-Yi or not Soon-Yi, I love Woody Allen. I am grateful for the laughter, insight and entertainment he has given me over the years.

Case in point:

Last week my husband and I drove to Ashland, Ore., in search of theatre (yes, the kind with an “r-e”). We drove up Highway 5 through cruelly mountainous Shasta and Siskiyou counties and into the equally mountainous Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.

Turns out my fear of twisty, windy mountain roads only increases as I age. I dreaded each friendly blue sign that had the word “summit,” “peak” or “view” on it. But none of those was as bad as the yellow signs reading “6 percent grade next 2 miles.”

There is nothing worse than a 6 percent grade for two miles, alongside groaning 18-wheelers, an incline of disinterested pine trees on one side, an uncaring mountainside on the other, and certain death around every corner.

I couldn’t remember from high school physics whether it was centripetal or centrifugal force that I knew would force us to fly off a cliff at every turn. But I was terrified.

(Oh yeah, there is one thing worse than that. It’s having me as a passenger during the ride. My brave husband endured my calf-flexing, seat-clutching and generalized gasping as best he could.)

Our first night in Ashland, we saw “Animal Crackers,” an old Marx Brothers romp filmed in 1930. It was a brilliant production, full of noisy, talented actors, music, frivolity and silliness. The theater was air-conditioned, the house was full, and we all laughed. It was a wonderful antidote to the day’s drive.

And sitting there, I flashed on the scene from Woody Allen’s 1986 “Hannah and Her Sisters,” when his character has made an embarrassing suicide attempt in his New York City apartment — his sweaty fingers cause his rifle to shoot the wall and the neighbors come running out into the hall, and he leaves the apartment and wanders the streets and finally finds himself in a movie theater watching “Duck Soup” (another old Marx Brothers movie), and he comes to the conclusion that, no matter how dispirited he may be in his neurotic search for meaning (coupled with hypochondria, self-loathing and anxiety), life is truly meant to be enjoyed.

And there, in a theater in Ashland, looking not altogether unlike Woody Allen, a nervous middle-aged woman came to the same conclusion.

I could beat myself up for having automotive anxiety.

Or I could enjoy a stage full of talented people who made me and everyone around me — including some little kid eight rows up — laugh.

“Hannah and Her Sisters” also contains the excellent scene where Woody’s character thinks he has a brain tumor and, when he finds out he doesn’t, goes dancing out of the doctor’s office into the streets of Manhattan while “Back to the Apple” plays in the soundtrack. Hilarious. Touching. Human.

I gotta thank the Woodman (and the Marx Brothers) for that.

He may not have hit gold with “To Rome With Love,” but he made me feel good after a bad day.

And my husband was kind enough to bring me back home, too.

Source: marinscope.com