Annie Hall and the Wonders of Dating

“That’s the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.”

Maybe not an accurate quotation of one of the most memorable lines from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, but it’s without a doubt a great line from a great movie. One of my friends recommended it when we were at university but I had just seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona and had hated it, so I wasn’t exactly in the mood to watch another of Allen’s movies, though arguably his most acclaimed one. After I finished watching it last night, I googled it (which must be a sign that I needed my opinion validated by “the internet”) and found several pages heralding it as one of the best, if not the best, comedy of all time. I would love to see a contemporary review from 1977 (to see if people were coming out of theatres then with the absolute knowledge that the comedy genre was not going to get any better than that), but google was not forthcoming. 

It is thought that hardly anybody proclaimed the complete and utter supremacy of Shakespeare during his lifetime, so maybe the same applies to directors. It would be harsh to say to a director after watching their film, “Yes. You’ve surpassed yourself, past and future. You will never again see these lofty heights.”  

Anyway, I digress. Annie Hall is a great movie, smart and cynical and a little bitter sweet. It is a film about the nature of relationships and it is strange to think that it is almost forty years old. Maybe it’s egotism, but when we look back into the past, our imagination is shackled by the social stereotypes of history, so you don’t expect to see people going through the same issues that happen today.

 Alvy and Annie having an argument about moving in together? Alvy saying that they’d got “that thing” to put off that spontaneous invite by the slimy guy in the club? Alvy’s friend commenting about visible panty lines on attractive women?

 All of those instances could take place today. Is this because young people will always have such items on the agenda, or is it because popular culture has echoed Annie Hall so much that those lines are still reverberating around contemporary TV and film scripts causing us to think they are still current? (That sounds like a silly question about what role popular culture has in our society and it’s far too complicated for this post!) I do find it interesting though, mainly because my parents met in 1977, the year that Annie Hall was released, so it’s mind-boggling to consider whether they had similar issues.

Annie Hall is at heart a relationship comedy, one of the first in the genre and watching it has got me thinking about relationships. I have found myself going on more dates lately, mainly due to the help of Tinder, which is like a half-hearted attempt at internet dating where you only get your big toe wet. I have dated and had one or two ONS in the last couple of years, but my last labelled relationship ended in 2012 and so, without much desire to commit to the idea, I have jumped on the bandwagon.

The actual act of dating, of going out and meeting someone that I hold little to no prior relationship with, is something of a new experience for me. It can be quite fun and exciting to go out with someone who you’ve never met before and have those getting-to-know-you conversations but it does lead to a lot of questions:

Do you like the look of them? The way they hold themselves? The way they talk? Are they interesting? Are they interested in what you have to say? What are they looking for? Do they like the look of you?

When you don’t know the person, I feel that there’s less pressure or expectations. Up until this point in my life, I’ve only gone on dates with guys who have made it clear that they already like me before the night of the date. If one of you is more invested in the success of the date, it can lead to awkwardness and then to failure. There’s more wiggle room (literally!) in having no investment. Internet dating is the new blind dating. Similar principles apply except you don’t have a friend to vouch for them and you’re not limited to the same social circles.

Why am I going off on a self-involved tangent in the middle of talking about Annie Hall? One: because tangents are fun and tangerines are delicious, two: because while Annie Hall is a relationship comedy, it’s a film about failed relationships. Alvy’s time with Annie is absolute, it has a beginning, middle and end, and we, the audience are privy to it all. We don’t necessarily want to see the end, this version of the end, but it happens all the same. We are also subjected to glimpses of Alvy’s two failed marriages, and his two awkward dates. This is what spoke to me as a viewer; dating can be awkward, as you wade through the sea of “other fishes” in the hope of finding someone you enjoy spending time with and desire to see naked, and even then, there still can be an ending. It can be exhausting having those first few conversations over and over again, like you’re stuck in a surreal version of Groundhog Day, but the moral isn’t that you should collapse under the enormity of this task. It’s definitely more of a “keep up the good work, Chuck” kind of message, and it is heart-warming for me, as someone who is only really giving this dating thing ago for the first time, even if at the same time it’s heat-breaking.

“Well, that’s … how I feel about relationships. They’re totally irrational, crazy and absurd. But we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”


Note: This is a repost. Also, since writing this, I discovered that Annie Hall was actually Diane Keaton’s real name, which makes Woody Allen’s film even more meta!


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