September (1987): One of Woody Allen’s Worst Films

One of Woody Allen’s weakest and most static films, September bears thematic resemblance to his earlier 1980 drama, “Interiors,” which was better in every respect, including the acting.

Once again, we are locked in country house (this time Vermont) with a bunch of neurotic and unhappy upper middle class individuals, who can afford the time to indulge in talk and talk about their selfish problems.

As an intimate drama, “September” is imitative of the work of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, a hero of Allen’s.  At the time, some critics charged that even as a tribute to the Swedish master, the movie is misguided.

Sam Waterston (a stand-in for Allen) plays a doubtful and disillusioned (what else?) writer, torn in his feelings between two vastly different femmes (played by Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest).

Meanwhile, Farrow’s mother, a former glamorous movie star (played by Elaine Stritch) shows up with her latest beau (Jack Warden).  Her presence and recollections of a turbulent past threaten to embarrass her daughter and kill off her chance to be balanced if not happy.

Mother and daughter engage in endless arguments, scrutinizing themselves and each other. But Farrow is so wimpy and irritating that she makes her character even less sympathetic than it must have been on paper.


In moments, the film gives the impression of being inspired by Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata,” with Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann as the mother and daughter, respectively. In others, it feels like a rehash of the scandalous life of Lana Turner, whose daughter had killed one of her lovers.

Contrived, schematic, and claustrophobic, “September” is an uninvolving film on any number of levels

Allen shot the film twice. It originally starred Sam Shepard as Peter (after Christopher Walken shot a few scenes, but was replaced), Maureen O’Sullivan (Mia Farrow’s real life mother) as Diane, and Charles Durning as Howard.  However, while editing the film, Allen decided to rewrite it, recast it, and reshoot it, but he himself was dissatisfied with the results.



Denholm Elliott as Howard

Dianne Wiest as Stephanie

Mia Farrow as Lane

Elaine Stritch as Diane

Sam Waterston as Peter

Jack Warden as Lloyd

Rosemary Murphy as Mrs. Mason

Ira Wheeler as Mr. Raines

Jane Cecil as Mrs. Raines