Movie Review: Hannah and Her Sisters

Our Editor-in-Chief says this 1986 movie is "the perfect antidote to Sex and the City."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Name of Film: Hannah and Her Sisters

Writer and Director: Woody Allen

Lead Actors: Mia Farrow (Hannah), Woody Allen (Mickey), Michael Caine (Eliot), Dianne Wiest (Holly), Barbara Hershey (Lee), Max von Sydow (Frederick)

Other Significant Contributors: Lloyd Nolan and Maureen O'Sullivan as the parents. Gorgeously photographed by Carlo Di Palma.

The Story: Set in Manhattan and revolving around six characters who work in its two sexiest industries, art and money, this movie is about a stable, wise older sister who everyone can always count on (Hannah), her husband Eliot, a financial advisor to rock bands who falls in love with her younger sister Lee, Lee's tortured artist boyfriend Frederick, the ex-husband and father of her twins (Mickey), and the talented middle sister Holly who seems to have a little problem with cocaine.

Eliot's lust for Lee, who is stunningly beautiful, takes him by surprise and even more surprising is her receptiveness to it. But—no wonder—boyfriend Frederick is antisocial, never goes anywhere, and treats her more like a student than a lover. While their trysts are never discovered, Eliot tells Lee some intimate details about his life with Hannah, which end up in a book written by Holly, setting off a bit of tension between all three sisters.

Hovering around is Mickey, neurotic and constantly in fear of getting a disease. He's a typically hilarious Woody Allen character, but he doesn't dominate the story—we get just enough of him. In the end, Lee gets a new boyfriend and Eliot goes back to Hannah. Holly goes straight and Mickey remains neurotic.

Review: Arguably the best movie Woody Allen has made, Hannah and Her Sisters takes off from the opening scene (a family Thanksgiving Dinner) and soars on to the conclusion two years later (another family Thanksgiving Dinner). The three appealing sisters are very different but obviously emotionally dependent upon each other. Their lovers, husbands, friends, and parents are all brilliantly defined and wonderfully acted.

This movie has heart. It is intensely funny, utterly contemporary even 22 years later, intelligent as only a Woody Allen movie can be, and it has an element that is thoroughly missing in hit flicks like Sex and the City—a sense of irony.

Reason you should see this movie: Hannah and Her Sisters is a nearly flawless film that sets a high standard for romantic comedies seldom touched before or since. Even the music featuring Harry James's trumpet playing "You Made Me Love You" is exhilarating. It is warm but not too sentimental, and you'll find yourself laughing out loud.


View the trailer of Hannah and Her Sisters »

– Reviewed by Dave Bunnell, Editor-in-Chief of ELDR magazine.

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