Deconstructing Harry

Reconstructing Woody. Back again is that red-haired boy (boy?) with the New York Jewish humor. (What kind of New York humor isn't Jewish?) This time it deals with the problems of a New York writer's creative and erotic life. So, what else is new?
Photo: "Deconstructing Harry":
® Indies Film Distribution
Courtesy of MVSP Public Relations

Harry Block (Woody Allen) is not only a writer born with a Block, but finds himself presently suffering from what is known as a writer's block. (Some people can never get away from themselves.) Of course, such a noted writer (be it Block or Allen) is easily able to surround himself with an entourage of famous actors and, as a result, we see Richard Bejamin, Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Demi Moore, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, and a barely decipherable Robin Williams parading past as either people or figments. Unable to pass the time getting the written word on the page gives him plenty of time to deal with his private problems.

Worried about losing the woman he loves (which one?) Harry tries to convince one ex not to marry his best friend as well as dealing as best he can with another ex to be more flexible with visitation rights concerning their child. Needing love as much as usual and finding temporary relief for his lifetime headache through sexcapades, Harry finds a down-to-earth hooker named Cookie (Hazelle Goodman) who he winds up bringing along for company to an awards ceremony. He's looking forward to finally being awarded recognition by the school that previously expelled him.

This time around Allen cleverly combines an endless number of characters who either actually do exist, are the creation of the (brilliant) author's pen (albeit derived from actual characters in his own life, so it would seem), or might simply be dangling fantasies from the neurotic's analytic mind (more often than not based on real characters). In short, these are the inhabitants of Allen's world. No wonder some people get upset. No wonder some people get confused.

No one watching this film is given any time to reflect on what any real issues might be that are dealt with while analyzing (dare I use this word?) the protagonist's (dare I use this word?) mind (dare I use this word?). Bouncing back and forth between the set of several characters usually portrayed (depending on what form is applicable at any given moment) by more than one person might send you spinning around, but it's good for a lot of laughs. And, after all, that is what comedy's about. The types of comedy available here run the gamut too. The biggest belly laugh has to be Hazelle Goodman's line when responding Allen's question about the universe. Goodman, by the way, gives everybody else in the cast a run for their money and just about steals the show.

The actors on the project only had a chance to see the pages with their respective roles. No rehearsal and no exhaustive directions on set. This has become part of the Woody Allen sink-or-swim directing legend technique. So, what do some of these actors have to say about his approach? Balaban: "I love the way Woody works. He gives you a lot of freedom." Crystal: "I was so excited. I read the pages. I laughed very hard, and said yes right away." Irving: "Woody's method of working is very supportive." Everybody seems to love him, so how come these neuroses never seem to go away. Oh, well, he's a New Yorker (in case you didn't notice).

Talking about large casts, isn't that Irving Metzman playing the shoe salesman? Always nice to see this actor up to his antics, especially as one of the familiar Allen film regulars. Well, as they say in the Central Park boathouse, "Say hello to Doug, Irving".

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