Diane Keaton Is My Hero: Revisiting Annie Hall

by Jody Goodman

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When I hear the names Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers, Meg Ryan, or Tom Hanks, my heart immediately warms and my mind goes to a happy place full of beautiful homes, exciting cities, and, of course, a heart warming love story. As far as I’m concerned, nothing can beat a great romantic comedy. Whenever I’m looking for a cozy night in, curled up on my couch, or am feeling just a touch lonely or nostalgic, these are the movies that never let me down. I find myself turning to You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Father of the Bride like old friends. There is one movie in particular, however, that I love more than any of these because of its wit, offbeat comedy, and the fact that it stars one of my absolute favorite people – DianeKeaton. 

Woody Allen’s love letter to Keaton in the form of his movie Annie Hall is so wonderful because it is a different kind of romantic comedy. It is realistic and grounded, and some have even referred to it as a “nervous romance.” I came to love this movie even more after reading Keaton’s memoirs – it made it so much more personal realizing just how much this movie is a reflection of Allen and Keaton’s relationship, as well as of her in general. Not only is this movie incredibly self aware and insightful, the steady stream of iconic one liners makes this one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. 

The ditzy, neurotic, yet quirky and independent character of Annie is one that I find myself constantly relating to, especially throughout the scenes in which she first meets Alvy. After meeting at a tennis match with friends, a cringey, awkward, and hilarious scene ensues in which Alvy eventually accepts a ride home with Annie. Annie turns out to be a completely terrible driver – in fact, if I had to pick a scene that most closely mimics my actual life, this would be it. My husband maintains a death grip on the handle above the passenger side door anytime that I’m driving, so I can always sympathize with Annie when Alvy tells her she is an awful driver. (I tend to ask my husband “but did you die?” when he recounts how terrible he thinks my driving is to others). This all leads to the scene on the balcony of Annie’s apartment that has ingrained itself in my subconscious since the first time I saw it. Annie and Alvy are discussing photography, and, as the discussion continues, their insecure thoughts are displayed as subtitles at the bottom of the screen. As I was watching the movie, I loved this interesting way that Allen employs to break the fourth wall, but I didn’t realize how much it would stick with me. I have a constant stream of inner monologue happening in my head at all times, whether I’m talking to a boss, a friend, a coworker, or even my husband. There are definite times where I feel like the words that are coming out of my mouth are in direct opposition to the facade that I’m presenting to the world. Anytime I’m caught in a situation where I feel uncomfortable or like a fraud, I think of Annie’s subtitles saying “I’m not smart enough for him. Hang in there.” It reminds me that everyone is human, everyone has insecure moments, and everyone probably has a steady stream of honest subtitles running underneath so many conversations. When I catch myself seeing the yellow subtitles of my thoughts, I am reminded not to take myself so seriously – it will all be ok! I just love that this little moment within this wonderful movie made me feel a little less weird, a little less alone, and a lot more understood. 

Even though it is not happily ever after for Annie and Alvy, the comedic wonderfulness and the steady stream of honest, seemingly ordinary moments that occur between them make this movie one of my favorites of all time. Diane Keaton became an icon to me after this movie, and I’m so glad that she went on to be a prominent fixture in what is solidly my favorite movie genre. 


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