Grow up, Woody; all the world may love a clown, but it hates a whiner.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Deconstructing Harry" rests on Woody Allen's pervasive conceit that attractive, strong women of all ages want to go to bed with him. He can assemble Elisabeth Shue, Judy Davis, Demi Moore, and Kirstie Alley to roar their insults at him, but beneath that surface of self-deprecating humor lies a well of self-worship.

Allen's pill-popping, phobic insomniac is so familiar it has become the worst of things: dated. The master and his wit have grown old and bitter. Do we really want to go to the movies to watch a bitter old man's treatise on adulterous sex filled with a trite mix of hotel rooms and assumed names? If this is autobiography, who cares?

In this tiresome, sophomoric script, Allen plays Harry Block, a famous writer being honored by the college that once expelled him. Allen goes to great lengths to show us that Harry is friendless in his renown, that he is reduced to scooping up an odd group to accompany him on the short trip out of New York. (Yes, just imagining Woody Allen outside New York is funny.) In violation of his divorce agreement, he scoops up his young son. Then he lures a virtual stranger and an incidental hooker to fill the car as company.

If Harry is without friends, he certainly doesn't lack lovers. Women, it seems, want him badly; his problem is that whenever they aren't in bed, they annoy him. Suddenly he solves the problem: "The ideal thing is you pay them and they come over to the house and you don't have to discuss Proust or films." Take that, you ungrateful beauties who made love with me and bored me.

With the line between Allen and Harry Block blurred from the beginning, the movie takes on a tone bordering on juvenile slapstick. Given a set of characters that numbers two ex-wives, a sister-in-law, and a prostitute with whom he will not have to discuss Proust, the contrived dalliances and betrayals are embarrassing. How about sex in front of a blind grandmother? Or adults having at it in an upstairs bedroom for a minute or two while the rest of the family barbecues hamburgers?

We are invited to believe that Woody Allen is obsessed by sex and work, the one fueling the other without consequence. It's a pity he doesn't understand that wit loses lightness when it becomes complaint. For years Allen has made the world laugh with his chronicles of a superbly neurotic and literate subculture of New York, always featuring himself. Just when the pale little guy began to seem too familiar, a little tiresome even, he had the good sense to leave himself out of one of his best movies, "Bullets Over Broadway." Now he has used his artist's license to even scores in his very public private life. It's an unattractive indulgence. Grow up, Woody; all the world may love a clown, but it hates a whiner.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 492
Studio : Fine Line Features
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h33m

Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page