Why doesn’t Woody Allen do something crazy – like make King Lear? (“How – uh – y’know – how sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a – uh – a thankless child”) What’s the point in playing it safe at 75? And – to get to my point (lopsidedly) – why bother making Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Woody Allen has made two classics in his career (Annie Hall, Manhattan), and about six movies that are almost-classic (Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters… Radio Days?), but his recent output is pedestrian – ignorable. So why not play Lear? Afterall, he was in that cockamamie Jean-Luc Godard Lear twenty years ago.
The best comedies are the ones that break your heart. They are not tear-jerkers. They do not strain for their effects. Sad moments in these comedies are more like the wake of great jokes; the great jokes made great because they show us how silly we are, and how much there is to love in us, for all our faults. Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is a great comedy because it takes a lot of awkward moments and forgives the person who messes-up the most. In Max Fischer, Anderson and his co-writer Owen Wilson created one of the great comedic heroes in modern movies. Max is easily the equal of anyone Woody Allen has ever played – and better (perhaps), because he’s capable of love, and not too old to learn something.