Hollywood Endings (2002)–Unfunny Woody Allen, Starring Debra Messing

Woody Allen’s 33rd feature, “Hollywood Ending,” is a minor work, a long, unfunny comedy, continuing the downward career path of the director, who has not made a good movie in years.

Released by DreamWorks, Hollywood Ending was both a critical and commercial flop, grossing only $4.8 million at the box-office.

Writer-director Allen casts himself as Val Waxman, a one-time genius filmmaker, who’s resorted to taking advertisement work to pay the bills for himself and his much younger live-in girlfriend, Lori (Debra Messing of TV fame).

Val hopes his bad luck will change upon receiving the script for The City Never Sleeps, a period noir set against the backdrop of 1940s New York City. (This is clearly an homage to Fritz Lang’s noir melodrama of the 1950s)

Waxman’s former wife, Ellie (Tea Leoni), an executive at Galaxy Pictures, has been behind the scene, making a case that he’s the only man who can do justice to the presumably complex script. Ellie even manages to convince her boyfriend, Hal (Treat Williams), Galaxy’s studio head, to take a chance on Val’s “unique vision.”

However, just when the cameras are ready to roll, Val finds that unique vision in jeopardy, as he’s struck with blindness (psychosomatic, of course). When physicians and psychiatrists fail to cure him, Val contrives a scheme to go ahead with the picture, for fear of blowing his one last chance at greatness.

The premise for the narrative, which overextends its welcome by half an hour, is silly and outrageous, and what compensate for the draggy picture are several smart jokes and witty lines. Bu, ultimately, the movie is simply not funny enough—just the kind of sketch you could see on stage during the height of the Yiddish Theater in New York’s Second Avenue.

As usual, the Woodman casts the hottest actresses around, here Debra Messing (who could be age-wise his granddaughter) and long-legged Tea Leoni. But there are also old-timers, familiar faces such as George Hamilton, stage actress Marian Seldes, and Mark Rydell, also known as a director (“On Golden Pond”).

Credits

MPAA: PG-13.
Running time: 112 Minutes.
Directed and written by Woody Allen
In Theaters: May 3, 2002 Wide
On DVD: Sep 17, 2002

Cast

Woody Allen as Val Waxman
Téa Leoni as Ellie
Debra Messing as Lori
Mark Rydell as Al Hack
Treat Williams as Hal
George Hamilton as Ed
Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Sharon Bates