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Val Waxman (Woody Allen) is a neurotic, once-great film director who desperately needs a comeback vehicle to jump-start his fizzled career. But when opportunity finally knocks, it's his ex-wife Ellie (Tea Leoni) - with Hal (Treat Williams) the handsome, rich studio head she dumped him for - at the door! She is championing him against the entire team at Galaxie Studios to direct a screenplay she has acquired, The City The Never Sleeps. It's perfect for Val, a man who adores and knows New York. Does he take the film, or forfeit his last shot at forwarding his career and avoid a painful reconnect. Is Val's temporary blindness caused by love when he does it? Is love blind when it comes to Ellie's staunch support? Literally and figuratively, the proof is in the picture.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Once again, Woody Allen puts his real life explosively close to his movie persona. Hollywood Ending was made in 2002, by which time many were saying the once-great director (famed for his New York-set films) had lost his inspirational genius. He goes and makes this film, as if to prove it. Down to the last scenes where he, as Val, rubbishes his own movie at a preview. Brave, but too close for comfort, I would have thought.

A disappointingly thin storyline coupled with laboured delivery and stale Allenisms are made completely woeful by the most surprising of flaws for Allen: embarrassingly inappropriate music cues - except perhaps the schmalzy end cue. This is the man whose love of jazz and understanding of music seemed indestructible to me.

There are widely dispersed lines that resonate with some of the humour of old, and sly observations slip into the script and performances that suggest the potential for a rueful comedy placed in Hollywood's belly might have ticked over. But either Woody Allen's not up to it, or he rushed into production before he re-read the script. Debra Messing is fun as Lori, the new young mistress in his life, George Hamilton is wonderful and Tea Leonie and Mark Rydell as the agent are perhaps the best thing in the film, but even all that is not quite enough.

There are some fun moments and often everyone's dialogue - except Woody's - is sharp, but then he comes along and drops the ball.

The media at the preview I attended at the Cannes Film Festival, giggled here and there, and a few clapped at the end - although they are suspected of being French journos, for whom there is a sweet note in the script that refers to French cinematic taste being superior to American. It comes off sounding like sour grapes on the film itself.

Published August 5, 2004

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(US, 2002)

CAST: Téa Leoni, Bob Dorian, Ivan Martin, Gregg Edelman, George Hamilton, Treat Williams, Woody Allen, Debra Messing, Neal Huff, Mark Rydell, Douglas McGrath

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

PRESENTATION: Anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1; DD 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailer


DVD RELEASE: July 21, 2004 (Rental)

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