Gabriel Roth (played by Woody Allen) is a Professor of English in a New York City university. He has been married to Judy (by Mia Farrow) for the past ten years. One evening, their friends Jack (by Sydney Pollack) and Sally (by Judy Davis) arrive to go to dinner with them and announce that after more than 20 years of marriage they are splitting up. Gabe and Judy are taken aback by the news, but since Jack and Sally are relatively calm about it, they try to “take it in their stride” and all move on with their lives. Except they can’t … Gabe and Judy try their best to be supportive to their friends during this unstable period, but they find themselves questioning their own relationship and themselves more and more. Jack and Sally both take up new partners – Jack with Sam (by Lisette Anthony), a young, fit, health-nut aerobics instructor; and Sally with Michael (by Liam Neeson), her handsome and chivalrous work colleague. As time goes on, Gabe and Judy watch as Jack and Sally start to remember their attraction and affections for each other, but Gabe and Judy’s questioning doesn’t abate and they start to acknowledge their attraction to others – Gabe to a beautiful and brilliant student in his class, Rain (by Juliette Lewis) and Judy to another man she works with. Where will all this discussion, questioning and exploration end – can it be leading to a good outcome?
As a piece of theatrical and cinematographical art, this work is magnificent. The camerawork is excellent, directing is marvellous and the characters are unrelenting in their engagement of the flawed people in this drama. The performances are all excellent, particulary Mia Farrow, Juliette Lewis and Judy Davis. I can’t help thinking that Woody Allen is just being himself, but perhaps that’s where his talent lies – as he makes it look so easy. However, as a piece of movie entertainment it is hard-going. The piece is basically a two hour talk-fest where characters either talk to each other, or to camera (as if speaking with their therapist) to check and question and re-check the situations in their lives and try to explain them. Because the characters are all totally self-absorbed, this can get frustrating. Overall, it is an excellent commentary on people and relationships, but I am not sure that everyone is as neurotic as these people are depicted.
Made in 1992. Directed by Woody Allen.