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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Retro Movie Review: Deconstructing Harry (1997) #RobinWilliams

Deconstructing Harry
Cast: Woody Allen, Caroline Aaron, Kirstie Alley, Billy Crystal, Julie Kavner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobey Maguire, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci, Robin Williams
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $10 million 
Trivia: Edited by Steven Schneider, Deconstructing Harry is included in '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die' book 

Plot: Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past & scenes from his best-selling books as his characters, real & fictional, come back to haunt him 

'A Woody Allen Movie I Could Get Into - Just About'

I wanted to end 2017 with two reviews: one from my favourite male movie star in Robin Williams and the other from one of my favourite female movie stars in Julia Roberts. I already reviewed 2013's August: Osage County, and with this review, I now turn my attention to the 1997 Woody Allen effort, Deconstructing Harry with Robin in a supporting/cameo role. 

At times, ponderous, as a follow-up to the bore that is Everyone Says I Love You one year on, Deconstructing Harry is full of cursing, needless sex talk, it's a film where random, almost unrelated scenes are tacked on, although unlike with the former film of 1996, & thanks to Kirstie Alley and Robin Williams's scenes, it was slightly more bearable. This is Allen's darkest offering by far. Yet at the same time, it just didn't quite click with me.

The 27th movie of Woody Allen's storied directorial career, it sees Allen's character, Harry Block: a bitter and at times repressed autobiographical novelist and his erotic and neurotic misdeeds that also include three ex-wives. Harry is still the immature guy who whines a lot, is obsessed with sex, admits he is into prostitutes and deceives himself in regards to his relationship with a younger woman played by Elizabeth Shue. He turns the tables on the people he hurts and whenever they affirm how much of an idiot Harry is, Harry tries to make it their fault, instead. Rather than admitting he is to blame, holding his hands up and say 'sorry'. Just how much of Woody Allen is in Harry Block? Harry is an author and so repellent who writes stories about his relationships with his three ex-wives, a prostitute named Cookie, who is more than happy giving him blowjobs and of whom is unfaithful.

Deconstructing Harry contains cluttered vignette scenes along with a story that is often disjointed, as much as it paints Woody Allen in a negative light. The actors in the movie represent the literary people, who are thinly-disguised characters from Allen's real-life.

The scene with Tobey Maguire and some hooded guy was sort of amusing. My favourite scenes were with Robin Williams as Mel, the blurry looking out of focus actor, in a scene where he doesn't do much, yet lasting only several minutes, is still effective with his family donning glasses so that they could see him properly. There is something about Williams' appearance in that short scene, which elevated it to a whole another level that felt like it wasn't a needless cameo and that it should have been fleshed out more. I wished he had further scenes, I wanted to see more of Mel and he seems to be a likeable character, given what I have seen of him and of Robin's portrayal. And Kirstie Alley's rants as Joan towards Harry was entertaining, but the main storyline with Woody Allen's Harry wasn't that engrossing at times. But Billy Crystal as the devil was sort of intriguing. I tried to get into Allen's films; unfortunately, the problem with his films that I have is that whatever message he is trying to put across, somehow, it's not coming through for me to understand and at times, relate to. Generally, they are just too pseudo-intellectual for my tastes, and thus he is of an acquired taste, no doubt about that. There is just not much plot, wit and after not getting over horny Woody kissing Julia Roberts in Everyone Says I Love You, he snogs Elizabeth Shue here. Harry's treatment of the women throughout is gross, their venting anger is largely understandable and he is just a narcissistic character that I cannot really root for. Harry even takes away his son, even though he doesn't have custody of him from one of his exes, and takes off in a speeding car.

Deconstructing Harry wasn't an easy watch; let's face it, Allen's movies for me aren't easy viewing - yet in watching Harry spiral downhill through sabotaging his own efforts that at times, Harry is even aware of it. Some of the conversations felt uninspired, tawdry and droning with dialogue that didn't have much of an impact on me.

The main issue I had with this film, relates to Everyone Says I Love You - and that is though every major star has a scene, these scenes, as nice and interesting as some of them are, could have been extended a little. Alas, they could be seen as being distracting, more so than edifying. Although the usage of stars such as Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Demi Moore to prop up the movie, feels far less distracting as well as gimmicky here and starry-eyed than say Julia Roberts and Goldie Hawn in Everyone Says I Love You. Thus, making the roles in Deconstructing Harry far more efficient.


Pros +

- Robin Williams as Mel and Kirstie Alley, Billy Crystal as Larry

- Tad and only a tad more enjoyable compared to Everyone Says I Love You

- Found this one far more accessible than Woody Allen's other films 

Cons -

- Woody Allen's character is repulsive

- Not very charming & lacks wit

- Editing is a bit choppy

Final Verdict:

Marginally more bearable than Everyone Says I Love You, this one has a tad few more watchable scenes, but the repulsiveness of the dark comedy can be a tad too dark not to mention of the Harry character himself and it reveals a lot and says a lot more about Allen as being a deeply cynical and sad person.

Woody Allen fanatics will lap this one up and whilst I wished it was more emotionally engaging and had a bit more substance, Deconstructing Harry turned out to be a movie, especially a Woody Allen movie that I kind of managed to get into, which for me, is quite a rarity and a feat. 


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