He grew up under the Thunderbolt rollercoaster at Coney Island, which must account for so much. Through a mutual friend (Tony Roberts), Alvy’s introduced to a fashionable nightclub singer from Chippewa Falls, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton, the strongest presence of all of Allen’s on- and off-screen loves), who has her own mess of problems and record of failed relationships.
The whole thing is doomed. And that’s sort of the point. Not everything that’s great will--or should--last. Allen is a pessimist and, though there are good times, knows that often the glass isn’t just half-empty, but on the other side of the room.
Annie Hall, Allen’s seventh feature, is a bit of a departure. Yes, some of the absurd, slapsticky humor of Bananas and Sleeper remains (the Marshall McLuhan and lobster scenes stand out), but there is full story here; one that illustrates the ups, downs, lefts, and rights of the relationship between Alvy and Annie. We see them meeting (which is cute, thanks to Keaton’s “la-di-da” manner), arguing in a movie theater, making love, moving in, moving away, etc.
This is classic Woody Allen. And yet, Allen takes a very non-traditional approach--not limited to a nonlinear structure, breaking the fourth wall, using split screens, animation, time travel, and subtitles (in English, translating English)--in detailing the insecurities, flaws, disdains, and obsessions of those who find themselves confronted with everything from a Buick-sized spider to a dead shark.
Annie Hall won four out of the Big Five at the 50th Academy Awards: Best Picture over Star Wars, Allen as Best Director (his only win), Keaton as Best Actress (her only win), and Allen and partner Marshall Brickman for Best Original Screenplay (they were nominated again for 1979’s Manhattan). (Allen lost his only Best Actor nod to Richard Dreyfuss for The Goodbye Girl.) It’s been argued and agreed that such a film would never win Best Picture today.
The film ends, as it begins, with a joke that is both funny and a fine point on life: “This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken.’ And, uh, the doctor says, ‘Well, why don't you turn him in?’ The guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ [Relationships are] totally irrational and crazy and absurd, and…but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs.”