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Hannah and Her Sisters

original movie poster
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Written by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen
Michael Caine
Mia Farrow
Carrie Fisher
Barbara Hershey
Lloyd Nolan
Maureen O'Sullivan
Daniel Stern
Max von Sydow
Dianne Wiest
Cinematography Carlo Di Palma
Editing by Susan E. Morse
Distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation
Release date(s) February 7, 1986
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,400,000 (est.)

Hannah and Her Sisters is a 1986 American comedy-drama film[1] which tells the intertwined stories of an extended family, told over two years that begin and end with a family Thanksgiving dinner. The movie was written and directed by Woody Allen and stars Mia Farrow as Hannah, with Michael Caine as her husband, and Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest as her sisters.

The film's ensemble cast also includes Eleanor Parmar, Carrie Fisher, Maureen O'Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Max von Sydow, and Julie Kavner. Daniel Stern, Richard Jenkins, Lewis Black, Joanna Gleason, John Turturro, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus all have minor roles, as do Tony Roberts and Sam Waterston, who have uncredited cameo appearances. Several of Farrow's children, including a pre-adolescent Soon-Yi Previn, have credited and uncredited roles, mostly as Thanksgiving extras.

The film is Allen's biggest box office hit, without adjusting for inflation, with a North American gross of US$41 million. Adjusted for inflation it falls behind Annie Hall and Manhattan, and possibly also one or two of his early comedies.[2]

Contents

Plot

The story is told in three main arcs, with almost all of it occurring during a 12-month period beginning and ending at Thanksgiving parties hosted by Hannah (Farrow) and her husband, Elliot (Caine). Hannah serves as the stalwart hub of the narrative; her own story as a successful actress (a recent success as Nora in A Doll's House) is somewhat secondary, but most of the events of the film connect to her.

An adulterous romance between Elliot and one of Hannah's sisters, Lee (Hershey), provides the main romantic entanglement of the film. Elliot's discontent with his wife's self-sufficiency and resentment of her emotional strength causes him to look elsewhere. Lee has lived for five years with a reclusive artist, Frederick (von Sydow). She finds her relationship with Frederick no longer intellectually or sexually stimulating, in spite of (or maybe because of) Frederick's professed interest in continuing to teach her. She leaves Frederick, much to his sorrow (for he has grown dependent upon her), and has a secret affair with Elliot lasting for several months.

Mickey, another of Allen's neurotic characters, provides the comic relief. Parts of his story are scenes from his previous marriage to Hannah and his horrible date with the cocaine-addicted Holly (Hannah's other sister, played by Wiest), shown in flashbacks. Mickey's main story is one of a hypochondriac confronting the possibility of an actual serious disease. After a clean bill of health, it turns into a career-pausing existential crisis, and leads to unsatisfying experiments with religious conversion to Catholicism and Krishna Consciousness, before a long walk and the fortuitous opportunity to see again the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (part of the 'joyous' declaration of war sequence is featured) help to remind him why life is worth living. The revelation helps prepare him for a second date with Holly, which this time blossoms quickly (and mostly off-screen) into a relationship and marriage.

Holly's story is the film's third main arc. She's an unsuccessful actress who dabbles in a catering business, funded by Hannah, but competing with April (Fisher), her business partner and a fellow actress for acting parts and a man (Sam Waterston) ends with Holly losing both. She decides to try her hand at writing. The career change forces her once again to borrow money from Hannah, a dependency Hannah perhaps welcomes and Holly resents. After writing a script inspired by Hannah and Elliot (a story that Holly sets aside after Hannah objects to just how much of the couple's private life Holly had incorporated into it), she writes a story inspired by her own life, which Mickey reads and admires greatly, vowing to help her get it produced.

A minor arc in the film tells part of the story of Norma and Evan (played by O'Sullivan and Nolan, who were both in Never Too Late 20 years earlier). They are Hannah's parents, who still have acting careers of their own, careers disrupted at times by Norma's alcoholism. Evan's flirtation and piano playing provide part of the entertainment during the Thanksgiving get-togethers.

By the time of the film's second Thanksgiving Lee has ended her affair with Elliot. In a final coda-like act, another year has elapsed and the film ends happily for the three sisters, now all married, and infertile Mickey has somehow impregnated his new wife Holly.

Cast and roles

Release

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Box office

Hannah and Her Sisters opened on February 7, 1986 in 54 theatres, where it gained a stellar $1,265,826 ($23,441 per screen) in its opening weekend. When it expanded to 761 theatres on March 14, it garnered a less spectacular $2,707,966 ($3,809 per screen). Still, it went on to gross $40,084,041, and remains one of the highest-grossing Woody Allen movies.[3]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

Critical Recognition

Hannah and Her Sisters received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. Allen's writing was recognized with an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and he earned a nomination for Best Director. His work on the film was also recognized with two BAFTA Awards.

Caine and Wiest each won Oscars, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film was also Oscar-nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Film Editing.

In France, the film was nominated for a César Award for Best Foreign Film.

Influential critics Siskel and Ebert each rated the film among the top three of the 1986 film year; Ebert's 1986 review of the film began with "Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters [is] the best movie he has ever made."

References

External links


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