It’s difficult comparing Allen films, there are so many good ones, but if I were forced at gunpoint I would say HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is his best. Then if they took the safety off, I might even say this is the best film of all time. This is the one he’s been working towards ever since ANNIE HALL and INTERIORS. Brilliantly structured Dickens meets Chekhov ‘three sisters’ we meet these women in ‘chapters’. Smart, rich characters like a classic Chekhov play, as well as being silly, like another one of Allen’s heroes – The Marx Brothers. Opening and ending at a Thanksgiving over a two-year period. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the very complex – very different sisters. The most compelling is Holly – played by the transformative, fabulous Dianne Wiest.
He met Dianne Wiest a few years earlier before doing THE PURPLE ROSE OF CARIO and gave her a small part as the good whore ‘Emma’ in the local brothel. Dianne Wiest – whore - whodda thunk? It was the beginning of Allen building a troupe of actors that he constantly pulled from. And Dianne was at the top of his list. He said “she walked in and she just lit up the room”, she changed the molecules in the air and he just knew he wanted to work with her. Dianne left the 90 second audition in his cutting room thinking, “Well, I definitely didn’t get that”. A line which he later re-worded and used for Holly in HANNAH. Woody says in 'Allen on Allen' “She is truly a great actress, in comedy and drama. She is one of the greatest actresses we have, stage or screen.” I met Dianne Wiest in the early 90’s and asked her about how she builds a character. After she’s read the script... what then? She was very sweet, “Oh Michael, you know in acting classes where teachers talk about the list of questions and the objective and super objective of a scene?” Yes... “Well, to be honest sweetheart, I kinda blanked out when teachers went on and on about that stuff. I just kinda nodded my head and pretended I understood. I really wouldn’t know my objective or super-objective in any of my scenes. Even if they were painted on the broadside of a barn, I’m not sure I would agree. I don’t think you can break down a persons’ single objective, do you? I just do it and pray it’s gonna be there.” I was in heaven. To have Dianne Wiest tell me she wasn’t sure what her objectives were – I was dying. I remember leaving the theatre that day after talking to Ms. Wiest thinking – it’s just innate. She reads it and she knows and it’s there for good. It's in her. She doesn’t have to remind herself or go to a technique. She’s not so caught up in her own acting that she forgets all 'the givens' – it’s just there. She’s playing the script and available totally for her partner. Wow.
Her character HOLLY makes the biggest changes. She goes from insecure, desperate, longing, druggie, needy wanna-be actress, wanna-be-caterer, wanna be settled to being very much settled, embraced, acknowledged and pregnant. When I asked my brother, (the person that knows me better than anyone) years ago which character in all the movies we’ve seen, and he’s seen em all, reminds you of me? Which character is most like your brother. I was hoping for someone a little more emotionally stable but within seconds he said – “Easy: Holly in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS”. Great. So, I’m a mess. Thanks. I’ll take it.
I love that Holly is constantly morphing and searching. The only thing getting in her way is her-self. Yeah, that’s me. Dianne Wiest plays restless Holly with an excitement and sweet warmth. Even when she’s making huge mistakes or needing some tiny acknowledgement for making the ‘shrimp puffs’. Her brilliance as a comedian and strength as a serious actress is displayed in the pivotal scene when Woody's character bumps into Holly in a record store. Like great jazz, the scene is pure magic and genius subtle acting from Wiest. The way she bounces off him, gets in her little playful jabs and holds her ground. It’s a combination of everything you want for this film – It’s the new Holly, solid Holly, but she’s also seducing, caring and moving forward and doing it all with such ease. Making it look easy anyway – that scene and her last line in the film is movie magic. I always cringe a little bit when anyone has to kiss Woody Allen, but in this film, I didn’t mind it so much.
Brilliant Movie – glorious Dianne Wiest.