When a timid film critic’s wife leaves him, his confidence is destroyed. And his new “confident” persona is the all-knowing hard man played by Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) in many of his movies, including Casablanca. His ghost begins appearing to give him advice, sort of like that conscience cliche in movies with the devil on one’s shoulder whispering in ears. With the backing of his friends, Dick (Tony Roberts) and Linda (Diane Keaton), critic Allan (Woody Allen) goes back into the dating spectrum. He never gets a second date and Bogart tells him how to behave with women. Allan falls in love with Linda, but doesn’t want to do anything despite Bogart’s advice.
Having seen Manhattan, Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris and others, all films which I love, I’m still really discovering Woody Allen. However, he’s quickly becoming one of my favourite writers and directors. And I predict that this film will have a higher impact on those who watched it back-to-back with the masterpiece love story Casablanca (the perfect film). Play It Again, Sam is a must for any geeky single who enjoys Casablanca or simply for anyone who likes Casablanca. This is a story about a love-obsessed geek in pursuit of true love, guided by the amusing one-liners of Humphrey Bogart, as seen in many scenes when Allan is taking dating advice from the legendary Rick Blaine.
Keaton came into this role right off the back of playing Kay Adams for the first time in The Godfather, a role which she would do again in 1974 with The Godfather: Part II and then again in 1990 with The Godfather: Part III. Much alike with Kay Adams, Linda is a very human character, not some caricature from fairytales. Diane Keaton brings a lot of sensitivity and humour to the role. Her character is realistic and believable. Her husband in the film, Dick, played by Tony Roberts is hilarious; his emotionless and expressionless deadpan devilry of all the phone number lines are excellent to watch and I don’t believe I’ll ever tire of it, even after many intended multiple viewings.
This is another branch of Woody Allen’s highly strung, socially-inept geek persona. Is the script as good as Annie Hall? No, but it’s bloody hilarious nonetheless. The blind date’s arrival is one scene that I’ll never forget. From the nervous preparations to the halfhearted introduction, it’s funnily painful. Then his demonstration of how to authentically eat Chinese rice with chopsticks is comedy gold. The device with spectral Humphrey Bogart’s alter ego works very well indeed. He’s his own character as well, and not simply an extension of Allan’s nervous-clumsy-geek persona. He’s witty and intelligent. But his best is in that scene where Allan works the moves on Linda (Diane Keaton).
In order to fully understand and appreciate Play It Again, Sam one must see Casablanca first. Beyond Casablanca being one of the best films ever made, Allen’s film shows archival footage from the 1940s classic. Furthermore, there are many references to the earlier film, including direct quotations which would be lost on any viewer who hasn’t seen it. And the ending of Casablanca is revealed at the very beginning of Play it Again, Sam. Spoilers! Casablanca aside, I every much enjoyed the psychological rants of the lead character, his oddness and his characters’ likeness to Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer. And we can’t forget about the events in the art gallery. That’s a cracker!
Watching Woody Allen blunder his way through the dating circuit is funny and this is done through the dry and witty dialogue. The scene where he talks about a fight he had with two hairdressers is one example. Despite Allen playing the same sort of character in his films, it never gets boring. And that’s because he’s amazingly good at what he does. A lot of actors get typecast and dull doing stuff like that, but Woody Allen continues to be interesting and unique. As his characters decompose in their pity, we’re able to believe them. And this is Allen at his best. Though, it’s not his show, as the supporting cast including Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts give great performances.
From the acting (mainly Allen and Keaton) to the directing of Herbert Ross (Footloose) to the comical and relatable story of everyday people, this was an excellent watch with not a single dull moment from start to finish. And as I continue to make my way through Allen’s filmography, I’m sure he’ll become one of my favourites of all time.