Play It Again, Sam (1972)

“Oh, face it, Allan: you may be very sweet, but you’re not sexy.”

Synopsis:
When his wife (Susan Anspach) leaves him, a neurotic film critic (Woody Allen) enlists the help of his married friends (Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts) and Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) in navigating the world of dating.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “consistently funny” adaptation of Woody Allen’s Broadway play (directed by Herbert Ross) was “the picture that really established Allen’s screen persona”. In typical Allen fashion, his avatar — whose first name is Allan — is a “depressed, neurotic, self-effacing sexual klutz” who mouths one-liners incessantly (when Keaton is impressed that he got her a birthday present, he notes, “You mentioned the date and I remembered because it’s the same day my mother had her hysterectomy”). His series of awful first dates — a narrative sequence which has been done in films many times since, but never as successfully — is truly hilarious, and, though obviously exaggerated, nonetheless rings true in every respect.

Buoying the film tremendously is the genuine rapport we sense between Keaton and Allen — it’s remarkably easy to imagine them as friends, and we feel for Keaton when her workaholic husband (well played by Tony Roberts) neglects her so egregiously that she looks outside her marriage for love. The final scene — a nearly blow-by-blow replica of the infamous “tarmac scene” in Casablanca — is, as noted by DVD Savant, perhaps not quite as fresh as it must once have seemed, but remains an effective ending to this cinephilic homage .

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Diane Keaton as Linda
    Keaton
  • Keaton and Allen’s genuine rapport
    Rapport
  • Allan attempting (unsuccessfully) to play it cool before his first blind date
    Suave
  • Dick (Roberts) obsessively phoning in the telephone numbers where he can be reached
    Phone
  • Allan imagining Dick’s potential reaction to the news of his wife’s affair
    Imagining
  • Many hilarious one-liners: “Sorry I had to slap you around, but you got hysterical when I said, ‘No more.'”
    Sorry

Must See?
Yes, as early evidence of Allen’s comedic genius.

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One Response to “Play It Again, Sam (1972)”

  1. Overall, a must – mainly because it’s drenched enough in cinema references that no real ff can pass it up. But has it held up well as a film? ~imho, yes and no.

    Allen did not direct it himself. Maybe a good move at that point in his career; Herbert Ross certainly had enough technique to turn a good script into a good commercial product – and that’s what Ross did.

    And that’s much more evident in the second half of the film – when a) we’re made to forget what a whiner Allen’s character is, and b) there’s a lot less slapstick overkill.

    I honestly don’t think I’ve seen this (til now) since it was released. And, for me obviously, there’s a reason for that: there’s nothing appealing about listening to a person whine about how he can’t get laid. And that’s the first half of the film, for the most part.

    Then something interesting happens in the screenplay: the whining stops as the main character starts to focus on one person. OK, that’s workable. And the film is actually funnier from that point on.

    Of course, when Allen’s character is in his ‘dating period’, there’s some enjoyment – thanks esp. to Jennifer Salt, Viva, and esp. Diana Davila (so memorable on Broadway in the musical of ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ – then what happened?), who has a marvelous, short monologue about Jackson Pollock/despair which ends with:

    Allen: What are you doing Saturday night?
    Davila: Committing suicide.
    Allen: What about Friday night?

    And my favorite scene may be when Allen (in top form) is on a date with Joy Bang (that *couldn’t* be her name?!) and is accosted by bikers:

    Allen (to bikers): Have you fellas seen the new production of ‘The Trojan Women’?

    In the film’s first half, it seems the supporting cast (esp. Keaton) comes off better (and has better lines) than Allen himself. But all does change midway – at which point, Allen gives himself great stuff – like some terrific movie fantasy sequences (esp. the imagined Italian film in which Keaton’s husband gets revenge). And then we have the centerpiece: not only does Allen finally get up the nerve – thanks to the ghost of Bogart – to (very awkwardly) hit on Keaton, but Allen’s ex-wife (an assured Susan Anspach) turns up to put Bogart in his place! Very clever.

    So, yes, a must. Some reservations – but enough that’s fun and memorable for ffs.

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