Reel Dad reflects on ‘Annie Hall’ and Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall."

Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall."

United Artists/ Contributed photo

As complicated as they may be, relationships can be the source of great laughter.

But the movies can make it all feel reasonable. And loveable. Especially movies starring Diane Keaton.

For more than 50 years, Woody Allen has been making us laugh, smile and reflect through an incredible series of explorations of the humorous dimensions of human relations. As one of Hollywood’s most prolific of filmmakers, Allen finds something new to explore, with great humor, almost once a year. Of course, with such a prolific career, some Allen films are better than others, and the good ones are wonderful. Despite the dramatic chapters in his personal life, his professional self is remarkably consistent.

Allen reached his early creative peak in the late 1970s with “Annie Hall.” This marvelous comedy will make you feel so very good, as if it replays one couple’s memories of their times together. Not that it’s not for everyone — certainly not for younger children — or that it offers much of a message, unless you choose to seriously consider its opinions that there is no cultural value of Los Angeles except for right turn on red, that New York City is the only real civilization in the U.S. and that unrequited love is a whole lot more fun that the kind that works out.

“Annie Hall” effortlessly breezes through the dynamics of a particularly complicated relationship between an egocentric comic (Allen) and an uninhibited would-be singer (Diane Keaton). There isn’t much plot and the narrative frequently wanders in and out of Allen’s imagination. Yet its “slice of life” tells us more about the realities of relationships than many traditional narrative films.

With a smile, the film takes us into the lives of a collection of New Yorkers who, for one reason or another, have a hard time connecting with each other. Perhaps their childhoods were odd, or their ambitions are unclear, or they are simply too selfish for words. But so engaging is their disengagement that we simply laugh. And laughter is healthy for the soul. The film captures the rhythm of a decade and a city and a way of life.

What I cherish about this film is how Allen dares to surprise. Just when we think we have figured out what he is thinking, he jumps to something totally new, whether it be an animated sequence to express what the characters won’t say to each other, or the side visit to Annie’s home for Thanksgiving and the hysterical visit to Los Angeles that gives Allen opportunity for his biting commentary on California life. Never do we let ourselves assume what we will see. And never does what we see feel stale or repeated. Every moment is fresh.

Allen makes us believe that film can be a repository for the spontaneous. Every moment in the film feels as if it was just invented no matter how many times we have seen it. No matter how many times you experience “Annie Hall”, it will still make you laugh. Because some moments are so rich, and so true, they never age. As Annie herself says, “la tee dah, la tee dah.” Wiser words are rarely said.

“Annie Hall” doesn't try to be what it simply can’t be. It finds what it is, stays there, and celebrates the joy of laughing out loud.

“Annie Hall” is rated PG, and runs 1 hour, 33 minutes.