Woody Allen (né Allan Konigsberg in Brooklyn in 1935) grinds out a movie a year, most of them notable only for the casts willing to work with him. Most are rueful looks at human relationships (after the early slapsick movies starring himself). One of the worst of his attempts to channel Ingmar Bergman was “September” (1987) in the waning days of his marriage to long-time muse Mia Farrow. (For me, the best of his bleak movies was “Interiors” (1978) with Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, E. G. Marshall, and Diane Keaton).
I thought that I would remember an Allen movie starring my beloved Gena Rowlands and sporting a cast including Oscar winners Sandy Dennis, Gene Hackman, and John Houseman-along with Farrow playing a character ironically named by Allen “Hope”… and Ian Holm. I realized that I had seen it before and a second viewing did not make “Another Woman” (1988) any more memorable than the earlier one had.
I might believe Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence, Gloria) as a college professor, but as the chair of a philosophy department? Allen failed to give her any ideas for the book she is writing in a rented apartment next door to a psychiatrist, whose sessions are clearly audible through a heating grate – and Farrow at her most grating at that. Rowlands’s Marion is married to a very cold fish blandly named Ken (Holm) and has a difficult old father (Houseman in the movie’s present, David Ogden Stiers in flashbacks) but she does not react to anyone and is remarkably uninteresting. I’m not even sure that she is having a midlife crisis. Her stepdaughter (Martha Plimpton) is quite pleasant and I guess that Lydia (Blythe Danner) is having or has had an affair with her husband, but it is difficult for me or for Marion to care. Her lapsed friend the actress Claire (Sandy Dennis) is just annoying, and I’m not convinced that the writer Larry Lewis (Gene Hackman) was really the right man whom she spurned for his friend Ken.
Allen managed to employ Bergman’s cinematographer (though not on “Wild Strawberries,” the Bergman film that seems to have inspired”Another Woman”), Sven Nykvist, but squandered all the acting and production talent on schematic, uninspired script.
(Some said that not only was there no Woody Allen onscreen in this movie but that there was not Woody Allen-like character around, but I think Gena Rowlands was playing a version of Allen questioning whether his success is fraudulent and whether life has any meaning herein.)