21) Play It Again, Sam [8.0]

Herbert Ross directed this adaptation of Woody Allen’s hit Broadway play concerning a shy film critic who has trouble with women. Woody Allen plays Allan Felix, a writer for Film Quarterly consumed by movies, particularly his favorite film of all time, Casablanca. At the start of the film, Allan’s wife Nancy (Susan Anspach) has just left him and is applying for a divorce. Unable to deal with this emotional turmoil, Allan seeks solace in the movies he loves, imagining Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) has dropped by his apartment to offer Allan advice on dealing with the ladies (“Dames are simple. I never met one that didn’t understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a forty-five”). Helping Allan meet new women are his good friends Dick (Tony Roberts) and Linda Christie (Diane Keaton). (1972)

For all the great quotes and scenes in movie history, who hasn’t at least once mimicked a great piece of cinema? Films like Star Wars, The Godfather and Terminator have such memorable lines and are so embedded in pop culture that virtually everyone can quote from them, even if they haven’t seen them. Way back when, Casablanca was one of those films for people (and to an extent, it’s still quoted to this day). In Play It Again, Sam Woody Allen plays a (you guessed it) neurotic writer who is obsessed with Casablanca. Though its easy to telegraph a few scenes in how the film is going to end, Play It Again, Sam is hilarious, with a tremendously witty script.

Diane Keaton is all sorts of adorable in this. It makes sense with the chemistry her and Woody Allen have that they’d not only go on to collaborate frequently, but also be romantically involved. There’s a good deal of physical humor, with Woody crashing into objects, but it’s his trademarked anxiety humor that had me laughing frequently. I was questioning at one point as to why his friends put with Allan, but it wasn’t a major point of contention. Though I could have done without his frequent soliloquies, Woody Allen does a fantastic job in Play It Again, Sam, an ode to romantic cinema lovers.

Side note: The scene after Allan gets dumped by his wife and is consoled by his two friends reminded me of the tone of a similar seen it Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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