Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Play It Again, Sam (1972)

One of Woody Allen's finest turns as an actor, based on his own Broadway play and directed by Herbert Ross with an assured stylistic evenness missing from many of Allen's own directorial efforts. The premise, about a film-obsessed writer, recently separated from his wife and looking for love in all the wrong places (with a little help from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart), is a lot of fun and provides solid structure for Allen's characteristic one-liners and isolated comic set pieces. He is ably supported by Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts, and Jerry Lacy all but steals his scenes with his spot-on Bogart impersonation.

Under Ross's direction, Allen demonstrates a subtle yet distinct range as an actor not often seen in his self-directed films. Given its theatrical roots, the script - one of the best Allen ever wrote - is much tighter than usual, and the film contains none of the long-drawn, ad-libbed dialogue that Allen never quite seems to know when to cut when he's behind the camera. The result is a sharp, well-paced comedy that holds up quite well after more than forty years.

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