Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen, 1992)

“Fucking men! Woman gets to be over a certain age, it becomes a different ballgame”


Now I know that I have had this coming for a while. A Woody Allen fan who has not been disappointed … it was inevitable really. There are films which are weaker, granted, but more often than not, an awesome cast approaching a high-concept comedy-drama will always have merits. Fact of the matter is, Husbands and Wives simply doesn’t have enough scope in its concept and the characters – notably Mia Farrow and Judy Davis – are simply not likeable or relatable for us, as an audience, to enjoy their company for a hundred minutes.

A Not-So-Interesting Concept

The concept itself is interesting: two couples in Sydney Pollack and Julie Davis as one couple, whilst Mia Farrow and Woody Allen play the other couple. They are married and play the respectable Husbands and Wives. Yes, this is Woody Allen taking on the complexities and challenges of married life. We have seen this before – marriages on the rocks in Mighty Aphrodite, Manhattan Murder Mystery and, even in the less-comedic Match Point. The funny thing is, the film begins with a couple splitting up – amicably enough, Sydney Pollack and Julie Davis sensibly decide to call it a day. It appears to be a thought through decision – nothing was easy but, time had come, to call it a day. They reveal this to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen who, as close friends, are incredibly shocked – specifically Mia Farrow, who – like most of the film – is whining. She whines about how

Can We Get Closer?

One interesting comparison to this – a far superior film – is ‘Closer’. In both films we have a limited four lead characters who, as an audience, we exclusively see there most personal and tender moments juxtaposed right next to the most important and relationship-destroying arguments. I would be really interested to hear Woody Allens opinion on ‘Closer’. Like ‘Closer’, as an audience, we are witness to these events and make our own mind up over whether it is right or wrong – and who we agree of disagree with. In ‘Husbands and Wives’, it is more personal in the way the camera is used. Yes, it is documentarian, but more than that it is rough and – it feels as if – unedited. Huge sections are merely awkward observations – with the camera often shaking as if to prove it is held rather than stationary, whilst sometimes we pause at the edge of a kitchen as a character disappears into the kitchen constantly talking only to re-emerge seconds later. As previously mentioned, ‘Closer’ is far superior and yet covers the same ground – but opening it further up to relationships as a whole. In this day and age, what’s the difference between a long-term relationship and a married couple?

Ultimately Failed

To wrap up – the good points. The mockumentary style, rather than the usual narration (though there is a bit of that too), it uses talking heads, direct to camera, as if we are psychiatrists, to highlight the ‘real’ issues of the characters. The topic it challenges, in relationships, as it is lust versus long-term. How do you know which is which and, do you follow oe over the other? Problem is, this has been explored so much in the past, its hardly unique – but is nevertheless, always interesting. One sequence is absolutely incredible. As Sydney Pollack is at a party, he has young teenage girlfriend with him and  -as she argues with his colleagues about the ‘truth’ of horoscopes – he is forced to drag her away. The entire sequence is painfully awkward as you see, in that one sequence, how the two are completely incompatible and how, more importantly, he treats her as a child and, as he pushes and drags her to the car, people stare at them and you know he has realised his lack of foresight in his infidelities. Relationships are not just lust – and ultimately cannot be – though, the end reveals how, when pitted against each other, the companionship is more important that any lust at all.

But, problems lay in Mia Farrow, and her horrendous manipulation of others – summarised in a closing statement of her first husband. He states how she always get what she wants – we see her force her own insecurities onto others, making them feel those insecurities. Her very insincere way of getting Michael (Liam Neeson) is creepy and, almost, a little nuts. Judy Davis’ lack on control post separation from husband is so intenese, oyu simply have to turn away. These two characters hold this film up – and yet you dislike them so much. This bores you and, to top it off, you begin to notice other things that normally don’t bother you. When Woody Allen and Juliette Lewis kiss (in a storm … very ‘expressionistic’)… its a little creepy. Ultimately, the film isn’t even that funny – the odd joke here and there, but, on the whole not funny enough. Maybe he is just, one by one, casting women he wants to kiss and he inevitably does. This film is not worth hunting down and was a real let down. Right, now onto Crimes and Misdemeanors to reestablish my face in Woody Allen.

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