“Radio — it’s all right once in a while. Otherwise it tends to induce bad values, false dreams, lazy habits. Listening to these stories of foolishness and violence — this is no way for a boy to grow up.”
During the 1930s and ’40s, a young boy (Seth Green) and the members of his working class family — including his mother (Julie Kavner), his father (Michael Tucker), his unmarried aunt (Dianne Wiest), and others — find solace and excitement in a variety of radio shows.
The final Woody Allen film listed in Peary’s book — actually included in his Addendum to the first printed edition — is this overtly nostalgic homage to Allen’s youth, a time when radio reigned supreme in households as the preferred mode of daily entertainment, news, and escape. While many of Allen’s previous films had included flashback scenes to a version of his childhood, this was the first to fully explore that particular era in American history, primarily through the lens of his alter-ego’s working class household — stuffed to the gills with not just his quibbling parents (Kavner and Tucker) but his married aunt (Renee Lippin) and uncle (Josh Mostel) and their teenage daughter (Joy Newman) as well as his single aunt (Dianne Wiest). Resolutely episodic in nature, the film portrays snippets from each character’s lives, most revolving in some way around radio — for instance, when Aunt Bea (Wiest) goes out on a date with a man she has hopes of possibly marrying, it’s Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater production of War of the Worlds that irredeemably dooms their nascent romance.
Meanwhile, several radio stars themselves come to all-too-human life — most notably the dapper male half (David Warrilow) of the morning radio show “Roger and Irene”, possessing an insatiable lust for a young cigarette girl (Mia Farrow) whose own infatuation with radio eventually blossoms in unexpected ways. Farrow’s trajectory is one of two the film perhaps follows most closely — the other being that of Wiest, whose desire to meet and marry Mr. Right clashes with her incurable pickiness. Farrow’s ditzy character remains a bit of a caricature, but Wiest turns Aunt Bea into a lovably neurotic soul we can’t help wishing the best for. But the primary memory one leaves the film with is that of a collective era, painstakingly recreated through Santo Loquasto’s period sets (and shot by DP Carlo di Palma).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Santo Loquasto’s impressive art direction
- A wonderfully nostalgic flashback to a distinct era of entertainment
Yes, as an all-around good show. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.