Urban Cinefile
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday, August 2, 2014 - Edition No 908 

Search SEARCH FOR A REVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Newsletter Options - Registration is FREE Help/Contact

DECONSTRUCTING HARRY

SYNOPSIS:
Harry Block (Woody Allen), though in late middle age, has never really grown up. He has a reputation as novelist and short-story writer, but he has already spent the advance supplied by his publisher for his next book, and is quite unable to find the inspiration to work on it. He's had three wives and six shrinks (one of whom he married), plus countless lovers along the way -- and he thinks he's abnormally sex-obsessed (he can't see an attractive woman without wondering what it would be like having sex with her). The film deals with a journey that Harry must make to a small upstate seat of learning, Adair College, to receive an award for his life's work. Though flattered, Block is also nervous and insecure about the trip, and determined to find someone to accompany him. Trouble is, his latest girlfriend, Fay (Elisabeth Shue), has chosen this moment to marry Larry (Billy Crystal), Block's best friend. Block desperately tries to make her dump Larry and return to him. Another friend, Richard (Bob Balaban), has heart problems and feels he might not be able to make the trip, and Block's plans to have his small son, Hilly (Eric Lloyd), see his father honoured are thwarted because Hilly's psychiatrist mother, Joan, (Kirstie Alley), refuses to let him go.

"Deconstructing Harry could well be called The Dance of the Seven Veils, where the dancer is Woody Allen himself. He plays his own devilís advocate, daring himself to edge ever closer to the abyss of self destruction. Or is it cathartic self indulgence? Or perhaps a brilliant double cross of all his enemies AND his friends and family, with his bÍte noirs thrown in for good measure. Whichever view we take, the film delivers: his well worn, much abused (and abusive) neurotic character is there in full flight, but this time he wallows in his destructive side, his ineptitude for honest relationships, his misfiring excuses, his pathetic moral weakness Ė and his tremulous, tenuous hold on the creative spark. Itís as if heís chosen to jump naked into an icy lake Ė for the purification value of it. In the process, Woody Allen brings together filmmaking techniques that are at once disparate and desperate, plus elements that are intellectually stimulating or vulgar, crudities and sophistications that collide like crazed marbles in an earthquake. Itís a full throttle film, from beginning to end, and when you go to see it, as you must, you should remember to wear your seatbelt, Ďcause itís going to be a bumpy night (apologies to Bette Davis)."
Andrew L. Urban

"Witty, cutting and intellectually stimulating, Deconstructing Harry is another entertaining journey into Woody Allen land, where life imitates art. From the firsts strains of Annie Rossís seductive voice singing the words of Twisted ("My analyst told me that I was out of my headÖ") we know that once again we are entering the world of phobias, obsessions, neuroses, infidelity, fear of death and pill-popping hypochondriacs. But this time, things are even closer to the bone, and digging deeper into Allenís own closet with higher degrees of vulgarity and full of self-loathing. There is no doubt that some will be offended. Thereís foul language, sex scenes, hookers, a visit to an ornate hell decorated by nude bodies: Allenís collection of colourful characters are cleverly interwoven in and out of reality. Coming face to face with his fictional characters provides a wonderful screen moment for Allen, whose brilliant mind and wit are sharp and in good working order. The lines are fast and furious, the laughs frequent and stinging. The jump cuts accentuate the offbeat, quirky nature of the subject matter, and give the film an effective sense of immediacy. The stellar cast shines at every turn - watch out for Judy Davisí scene stealer when she discovers that the affair she is having with her sisterís husband is over. And there are brilliant ideas well executed - such as Robin Williamsí character, who suddenly becomes blurry and out of focus - and indeed is out of focus for his entire appearance. While Everyone Says I Love You wallows into romanticism and illusion, Deconstructing Harry has bite and spice and bares Allenís complexities boldly."
Louise Keller

"One can understand why Woody Allenís film has caused such a sharply divided critical reaction. Having played such sweet losers throughout his work, Allen has created for himself a man full of self-loathing, a pathetic middle aged character obsessed with sex, booze and pills. Heís a writer of such vivid imagination that ultimately he canít seem to separate the fictitious world which now seems so real to him. Deconstructing Harry is a dark and savage work, one that explores a warts-and-all, self-obsessed character. Yet, it remains a film more bitingly hilarious and complex than anything Allen has made before. From a purely cinematic level, his latest work is one of a rich maturity, pure artistry, as Allen the filmmaker experiments with unconventional editing, which perhaps symbolises his characterís skewed view of the world. Allenís darkly wry comments on Judaism, for example, result in the most intricate of comedic performances by Demi Moore, no less, illuminating as the fictitious shrink who marries Allenís fictional alter-ego (in this case Stanley Tucci) and who reverts to a curious form of orthodoxy after giving birth to their son. In one of the filmís most hilarious sequences, Moore insists on praying before everything, including oral sex. Itís a deft comment on religious fanaticism nicely conveyed. Her real-life equivalent is played to the hilt by Kirsty Alley who is hilariously hysterical when she discovers, to her chagrin, that Harry has just had an affair with a patient. Harryís complaint? That if theyíd gone out more often, he might have had a greater opportunity to meet women he could sleep with. The usual Allen obsessions are certainly prevalent, but with a greater degree of focus and intellect, as Allen finally realises that at 62, love scenes with beautiful women such as Elisabeth Shue is a tad ridiculous. His is an unashamedly honest and cathartic film, yet still remains a highly original and funny piece, unlike the soft romanticism of Everyone Says I Love You. This is more brazen, more sexual and more frank than weíve had from Allen. All of which indicates that unlike poor, insufferable, self-obsessed Harry, his creator has done a lot of growing up to come up with this, his definitive statement on The Human Condition According to Woody Allen."
Paul Fischer



Email this article

__________________

CRITICAL COUNT
Positive: 4
Negative: 0
Mixed: 2
__________________

DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (M)
(US)

CAST: Caroline Aaron, Woody Allen, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Hazelle Goodman, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Eric Lloyd, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobey Maguire, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci, Robin Williams, Annette Arnold, Philip Bosco, Stephanie Roth, Gene Saks

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

PRODUCER: Jean Doumanian

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Carlo DiPalma

EDITOR: Susan E. Morse

COSTUMES: Suzy Benzinger

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sanato Loquasto

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 9, 1998







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2014