“She has no direction; I expected such great things from her.”
Three grown sisters — a successful poet (Diane Keaton) married to a struggling novelist (Richard Jordan); a would-be artist (Mary Beth Hurt) in a relationship with a political writer (Sam Waterston); and an aspiring actress (Kristin Griffith) — all deal differently with the increasingly unstable mental state of their mother (Geraldine Page), and with the lively new girlfriend (Maureen Stapleton) their father (E.G. Marshall) has recently started dating.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that watching this “unusual Woody Allen film” when it was released in 1978 was “an excruciating experience” for many viewers, given that “ready to laugh, we saw before us a humorless Bergmanesque drama (without Allen in the cast)”. However, he notes that seeing it again later, he finds it a “truly beautiful, painstakingly written and directed, outstanding if… too serious film” about three adult sisters who “all grew up considering themselves failures”. Much like he argues in his review of Allen’s later Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) — which possesses numerous thematic similarities — he notes that Keaton, Hurt, and Griffin are all “emotional cripples, afraid of one another because of the damage each is capable of inflicting”, and “jealous of [each] other’s successes.” He writes that “what’s most impressive about Allen’s film is that he creates a logic for why his characters respond to each other as they do”; even if we don’t particularly enjoy watching these sisters (and Keaton’s dissatisfied husband) wallow in their sorrows — and find the “snobby pretentiousness” of their “criticism of books, plays, [and] articles” unbearable — they’re indisputably all-too-human.
Indeed, with a mother like Page — who during the film “suffers a breakdown and attempts suicide”, yet was clearly mentally unhinged long before the action begins — it’s no surprise at all to see what a mess Keaton et al. are (nor to question the desire of Marshall to get out of the marriage as gently yet quickly as he can). Page’s tragic performance is note-perfect, as is Marshall’s — though arguably the most memorable “older” performance is given by Stapleton, “whose bright clothes are a jolt to the picture”, and who “brings life to the drained group”. Peary notes that a final scene involving Stapleton and Hurt (which I won’t spoil here like Peary does) is the “most special” moment for him, in a film filled with “many emotionally devastating moments”. To that end, how well you ultimately respond to Interiors depends largely on: a) your willingness to suspend preconceived judgments about what a Woody Allen film “should” be, and b) your willingness to invest in the outcome of these (mostly) not-very-likable characters. For my part, I was resistant at first (as Peary notes, it’s still far “too serious” a film), but quickly found myself caught up in the power of Allen’s uncompromising vision. Good for him for daring to make a movie just the way he envisioned it, and to foil his fans’ expectations.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Geraldine Page as Eve
- Maureen Stapleton as Pearl
- E.G. Marshall as Arthur
- Fine cinematography by Gordon Willis
Yes, as an unexpectedly powerful family drama by Allen. Nominated by Peary as one of the Best Films of the Year in his Alternate Oscars.