"Life reflects art," the cliché used to describe Hollywood Ending, is over-used in real life as well. Cliché also causes the downfall of this Woody Allen film. Allen plays Val Waxman, a director out of luck both in his career – he’s making commercials – and his marriage. His ex-wife Ellie (Téa Leoni) is now engaged to a studio head (Treat Williams).
When Hal (Williams) and Ellie look for a director for their newest project, Ellie persuades Hal to hire Val. Never mind that Val’s career is sliding down the slopes, that he and Hal hate each other, and that Val would have to work closely with Ellie. Somehow (unconvincing to me), Ellie convinces Hal, and the project is on.
So anxiety ridden – a familiar trait in all of Allen’s characters – is Val that within days of the film’s beginning, he experiences a psychological blindness and must finish the film totally blind. He finds a few willing suspects to work with him while keeping his big secret under wraps, but they are not directors, and the film suffers as a result.
As much as one likes or dislikes those nervous tics Allen presents in nearly all of his movies, film devotees generally applaud his style of filmmaking. Labeled a "major force in cinema," Allen has earned enough Academy Award nominations (6 times for Best Director, 13 times for Best Screenplay, 2 times for Best Picture, once for Best Actor) and wins (Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters) to back up that designation. Everything involved in serving up his unique slices of movie pie – the shooting style, writing techniques, casting -- even the deal-making, Allen has wedged into his own mold and sold successfully time and time again. How many filmmakers have the luxury of making a film a year?
"That’s one of the breaks I have had," Allen said. "Which is an advantage over other directors. Because I’m funded, when I pull it (the script) out of the drawer, I call up the people and say let’s go, and we go. Whereas, somebody else has to call Warren Beatty and have lunch, and see if he’s interested in the script, and if he’s not, is Jack Nicholson, and six months later they are having lunch with the director. It takes them two years to get it done."
Hollywood Ending does evoke some laughs, but the acting is mediocre and the story line – well, it's a typical Hollywood ending.
(Released by DreamWorks and rated "PG-13" for some drug references and sexual material.)