Annie Hall

Annie Hall

When Alvy first meets Annie, she is awkward and nervous, somewhat airheaded, and tells herself via subtitles to “hang in there” because she’s not smart enough for him. Originally from the Midwest, Annie feels somewhat lost in and intimidated by the intellectual atmosphere of New York City. Nonetheless, she has already hopped on the therapy bandwagon and joined a sports club. Her self-consciousness about her Chippewa Falls upbringing is magnified by Alvy’s propensity to make fun of it. Annie allows herself to be steered along Alvy’s path, tolerating books on death and four-hour-long foreign films about the Holocaust, but by the end of their relationship, her confidence and independence have grown exponentially. She begins to accuse Alvy of thinking she’s not smart enough, thereby suggesting that she knows her intelligence matches his. She becomes so independent, in fact, that upon their split she quickly moves to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career. Annie’s transformation is substantial, giving the film a Pygmalion-like storyline in which Annie blossoms under Alvy’s influence—so much so that eventually she doesn’t need him anymore.

The film plays out much like a tribute to Diane Keaton. Whereas Alvy’s idiosyncrasies become tiresome at points in the film, Annie is nearly always a likeable character. When Alvy goes out to California to woo her back with a desperate marriage proposal, Annie is happy and thriving and her polite refusal is practically a relief. Annie has solidified her identity and no longer allows Alvy to push her around in his neurotic fashion. She has struck out on her own and no longer pines for Alvy as she did after their first break-up, when her ego was still fragile and underdeveloped. The last few moments in the film celebrate Annie with vignettes and sweeping music, and the title of course signifies that she is the main figure of the film. Stepping out of the fiction of the film into its reality, it’s clear that Allen’s romance with Diane Keaton left a lasting impression on him. The film encourages us to fall in love with Keaton just as Alvy falls in love with Annie. It worked—women wholeheartedly adopted the “Annie Hall” look in 1977, and the film has become a classic.