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  • I'm probably in the minority here but i find this to be one of Allen's top ten masterpieces. Every scene works and the more you watch it, the more searing it becomes. No doubt you need to be in the right frame of mind to see it, but it's like a great night watching a play unfold. So many deep secrets, betrayals and unspoken feelings, finally, all coming to a head by the time the power comes back on after that thunderstorm. It feels way too real and may be why it makes most audience members uncomfortable. I liked this the first time I saw it and continue to hold it in high esteem years and almost 2 decades later. To preserve the great Elaine Stritch on film forever is enough to recommend it but the acting is painfully truthful to the point of awe. Woody's 3 dramas: this and Interiors and Another Woman form a great triangle. They should be looked at and admired now for the fine ensemble casting and the pinpoint writing. Whether they rip off Bergman or not, is rather pointless to argue. Each of them stand up as potent films on their own. Waterston and Wiest re-united on TV's Law And Order, and Stritch as well went on to win an Emmy on Law, so it shows how intuitive Allen was when it came to choosing great actors for his scripts. I found Farrow's character to be highly moving. Then again, I liked everything she and Allen did together. You became almost spoiled by the high quality. As a lifelong Allen viewer, I still think this is fine stuff and will stick by my high opinion every time I re-see it.
  • Edu-1620 August 2003
    Wasn't in the mood to watch a film last night, but couldnt remember seeing Denholm Elliot in a Woody Allen movie before, so realised this was one I hadnt seen before.

    Can't say as I was 'entertained' - but I was gripped and rooted to the sofa for the duration, which could say something about my sofa of course, but was really down to this film. The dialogue and acting were both utterly convincing - and there were many moments of intense honesty. Just for once, relationships don't resolve, nor are we rescued from darkness by gratuitous humour. It's a stark, depressing beautifully acted piece of claustrophobic drama. More your Webern 'five pieces', rather than your Strauss, 'Der RosenKavalier'.

    If nothing else - it's nice to be reminded that not all scripts are written by a gang of 12 year olds....
  • rick_723 February 2005
    Between his serio-comic reminiscence Radio Days and the searing adult drama Another Woman, Woody Allen made September, a reflective, introspective chamber-piece on his favourite themes of childhood, adultery, love and loss. One imagines that the chilly critical and public response will shift to one of admiration and wonder as the years shift, such is the haunting power of this masterpiece.

    Mia Farrow plays Lane, an unsuccessful photographer recovering from a breakdown in her autumnal apartment, the golds and rusts of the season chiming with the forlorn tone of the story. She falls in love with a visiting writer (Waterston), who appears to be drifting away from her, since he is besotted with Lane's sister Stephanie (Wiest). Barely taking an interest is the sisters' self-absorbed mother (Stritch) and her insecure third husband (Warden). Denholm Elliot rounds out the principal cast as a kind family friend, his love for Lane unspoken.

    There are many great moments in this complex, brilliant film, but two in particular remain long in the mind. First is the "love scene" between Waterston and Wiest. Wiest says - torn - that to begin an affair would be "impossible" and exits. Then, slowly, she turns and walks back into the room, shutting the door. Wiest has never been better than in this film, than in this moment. A startling, beautifully realised epiphany, boiled down to a look, a bow and a smile. The second great sequence comes with the shattering denouement, which I shan't spoil for you here.

    Allen's straight dramas certainly aren't for all tastes, but for those who can take them the rewards are vast. There has never been a screenwriter with a better ear for dialogue and in his "serious" films, Allen creates fascinating, utterly believable characters. The performances are pitch-perfect throughout, with Wiest, Farrow and Stritch all on career-best form. As always Allen's use of lighting and music is spot-on; here he showcases Art Tatum and Bernie Leighton, providing an evocative soundtrack to an unforgettable film.

    Simply brilliant.
  • Sombre story from Woody Allen details (with much angst) a disastrous weekend in Vermont with 6 people seemingly all at loose ends. Mia Farrow "lost" her husband and has fallen for lugubrious writer Sam Waterston, but he's fallen for Dianne Wiest. A neighbor, Denholm Elliott, secretly loves Mia. Mia's mother and husband have also arrived (Elaine Stritch and Jack Warden). Story has echoes of Ibsen and Bergman. Waterson and Farrow are a bit hard to take, but the acting is solid all round. The Vermont house is a set on a sound stage but looks great. Wiest is always good, and Warden is good but has little to do. The intruders--a realtor and two clients--are annoying boors (played by Rosemary Murphy, Ira Wheeler, and Jane Cecil). Stritch steals the show as the one-time playgirl/actress with a Lana Turner past. Had this film been a hit, Stritch would have garnered an Oscar nomination. She's a total dynamo even if her character is unsympathetic. Maureen O'Sullivan began shooting as the mother but was replaced by Stritch. Not for all tastes, not as good as "Interiors," but even mediocre Woody Allen is better than most.
  • Let's face it: It's hard to be entertained by a story where everybody's in love with someone who's in love with someone else. Chekhov can make it compelling (watch "Vanya on 42nd Street" for recent proof of this), but Allen obviously had other things in mind with this film. I guess it was his antidote to "Hannah and Her Sisters," where similar love triangles (and other polygons) played out, but the end result was much happier. Allen usually doesn't like to give us such neat endings, so a year later we get "September," in which little is resolved and most of the characters end up back where they started. It's a fascinating film in its own way, but it doesn't bear repeated viewings.
  • First i must say that i'm an inconditional Woody Allen fan so i can take a lot from him without judgement. I watch September for the first time yesterday and i must say that it was good. I've read many bad comments on that one throughout the years so i was ready for the end of the world! Having read Woody's comment on the film in the DVD booklet i was surprised to find out that Woody had intended September to be a filmed play. So with this in mind i was more opened to the "extremely hermetic" ambiance of the film. Ok,it is emotionly heavy at times in this who-love-who plot but it is rewarded with great performance from Diane Wiest and Mia Farrow. I would recommend this to anyone who want to see another side of Woody with an opened mind. I really enjoyed that one...
  • Made by Woody Allen in his serious mode, the drama "September" is not as impressive and fine as "Another Woman" but it is still an interesting movie. Chekhov said once about the characters in his plays, "People sit at the table, drink tea, talk politics, and at the same time their hearts get broken". In this regard, Allen's "September' is a very Chekhovian movie ("Uncle Vanya" comes to mind first). The film takes place inside a country house in Vermont where several characters, friends and relatives of Lane (Mia Farrow), a fragile and troubled young woman recovering from a nervous breakdown, get together for a rainy weekend in the end of the Summer. The weekend will be filled with the drinks, conversations, tender and delicate music. Six characters will fell in and out of love; the friendships will be betrayed, the hearts will be broken, a hidden family secret will come out. Along with the characters, we will reflect on love, mother-daughter complicated relationship, family secrets, aging, loneliness, longing, emotional crises, and self doubt as six cultured and intelligent individuals will try to find the meaning and the purpose in their lives. The film brings to mind John Cheever's observation: "The main emotion of the adult American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment." There are a lot of disappointments, regrets and unhappiness in the characters of "September" but the weekend will be over, the rain will stop. There will be the possibility of hope in the future. The sun always comes after the rain.
  • drosse6728 August 2002
    Woody Allen tried to duplicate the success of Interiors with this movie, which is just as downbeat but well acted, especially by Mia Farrow. It didn't win him any new fans and was a somber follow-up to two of his more popular '80s films (Hannah & her Sisters and Radio Days). The blackout in the middle of the movie is what most people (myself included) seem to remember most, but Farrow's character really does get to you. What she goes through, and puts up with, in this movie will make you want to stick your head in the oven. Not a pleasant experience (any movie with a suicidal main character is not going to be), with most of the action taking place in a large farm house (which makes the film a little more stagy than most of Allen's works). Many of Woody Allen's stock actors from his late '80s and '90s films show up, and Elaine Stritch is wonderful. But the film is a thoroughly sad one and does not lend itself well to repeat viewings, unlike his other somber dramas (Interiors and Another Woman).
  • CameronMB14 February 2004
    Basically, if you liked "Interiors" you will probably also enjoy this moody piece which features some fine performances and a lot of angst-filled speeches. On the other hand, if you didn't like "Interiors" you probably won't like this film either. Although it isn't as good as Allen's more famous melodrama, it comes close to being of equal quality, in terms of the acting; the script, however, leaves something to be desired. I'd recommend it if someone asked me, but I wouldn't go out of my way to try to get people to see it.
  • I saw this film twice many many years ago. Most reviewers tend to think it's Allen's worst film to date, but I beg to differ. Although I can't remember any details concerning the plot, I am, after all these years, left with the strong impression that September is a forgotten gem. I would like to see it again.
  • Mia Farrow plays suicidal Lane, a child-like woman hoping to sell off the family cottage in Vermont so she can start life anew in New York City; she's surrounded for the weekend by her married friend (Dianne Wiest), a charming, struggling writer (Sam Waterston), an elderly neighbor who harbors a crush on Lane (Denholm Elliott), and Lane's demonstrative mama (Elaine Stritch) and her latest husband (Jack Warden). Seems mother and daughter were once the subjects of a scandalous murder-trial from years ago (shades of Lana Turner and daughter Cheryl), and Lane's emotional showdown with her mother provides an intense acting moment between Farrow and Stritch. Claustrophobic Woody Allen drama was one of the writer-director's biggest commercial and critical failures (he filmed it twice with two separate casts--this is the second version, the original remains unseen). It's a nearly-humorless study of the dangers of repression, yet the picture doesn't learn from itself--the handling is repressed as well--and few of these characters seem improved by the finale. Allen's languid pacing nearly comes to a halt during an electrical storm (at just 85 minutes, "September" doesn't exactly utilize its time wisely); however, this group of privately-tortured souls is as fascinating as the family in Allen's "Interiors." In fact, of the two films, this may be the better effort. *** from ****
  • Denholm Elliott has the hots for Mia Farrow, who has the hots for Sam Waterston, who has the hots for Dianne Wiest. Mia's ex-film-star mother and her physicist husband descend on them, insult everyone and then go away again. All this is set in a house in New England during a storm and power-cut.

    Some critics see this as Allen in Bergman mode again but to me its claustrophobic country-house atmosphere is more reminiscent of Chekhov – with one important exception: Chekhov has jokes. This is tedious stuff. No wonder Soon-Yi (in Wild Man Blues) says that she walked out of it.

    Fact and fiction got confused in my mind when Mia Farrow's character started talking about shooting her mother's gangster lover when she was a teenager. This may be an allusion to the real-life shooting of Johnny Stompanato by Lana Turner's daughter. Elaine Strich, playing the mother, is reminiscent of Farrow's real mother Maureen O'Sullivan in Hannah And Her Sisters.
  • I enjoyed the film. As one previous comment mentions, it is reminiscent of Bergman's Autumn Sonata. Probably intentional on Allen's part, and his homage to Bergman. The characters are played over the top, as in any good melodrama, and like most Allen characters in all his films. The film is presented as a stage play being filmed.

    I am surprised that none of the previous comments mention the wonderful music of Art Tatum, Ben Webster et al. For Allen I suspect that the music is a central character of the film, and the film is an opportunity for Allen to present this music to his filmgoing audience.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    No matter if it's a comedy or drama,Allen tackles them both well,and as much as his characters are funny in the absurdity they live in,they are believable and lovable and deserve sympathy in their dramatic stand.

    He manages to create an atmosphere and situation so akin to Chekhov and yet not repeating or imitating him but paying tribute to him by his shrewd observation that human nature is more or less the same and the problems we face are of our own time and yet eternal in their essence.

    A marvelous script unfolds near the pool table,in the balcony,at the threshold,in front of the wigi board.Woody Allen cuts off the electricity and makes them dream a while,confess to each other and to themselves all the vanity of life and love and then when the sun is up packs their bags and sets them off to go through the September.
  • September (1987) Heavy Sturm and Durang here with a great performance by theater legend Elaine Stritch. Basically, family hanging out in a beach house in the off-season, tearing into each other. Drama on the Greek scale. I liked it but you really gotta be in the mood.
  • Woody Allen directed this film which is more character driven with six leading roles starring his then-partner in life, Mia Farrow, Oscar winner Dianne Wiest, Jack Warden, Emmy Winner Elaine Stritch, before Law & Order Sam Waterson and the late Denholm Elliott CBE. Amazingly, Allen doesn't have to go far to film this movie about a summer home in Vermont. It was all filmed at the Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens, New York. Regardless, the film is entirely believable and the setting is quite quaint in nature. It really looks like an authentic country home. It begins with Weist and Elliott conversing in French in Lane's living room played by Farrow. Weist's character is a married mother and an unhappy housewife from Philadelphia but Lane's best friend. Lane falls in love with Peter (Waterson) but he's in love with Weist's character, Stephanie. Lane is also upset by her mother, Diane Frazer's visit with her current husband played by Warden. Stritch is dynamic as Lane's mom in an unforgettable role. Elliott's character, a friend and neighbor of Lane, is in love with her but she is not in love with him. Except for the real estate agent played by Rosemary Murphy and a city couple who want to purchase the home, the cast is relatively balanced like that in a good theatrical production. There are some surprises but we always knew that Stritch is brilliant in anything that she does.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "We all make mistakes." so says Diane, the character played by Elaine Stritch. And many people thought this applied to Woody Allen himself, when he made this film. Allen has made 3 full dramas (not counting the recent Matchpoint) in Interiors, September and Another Woman. Of course, the 'Crimes' story in Crimes and Misdemeanors is often justifiably claimed to be Allen best drama, with Interiors and September being put down as mere attempts to match Ingmar Bergman.

    But September is no poor cousin to any of Bergman's films. Like Interiors, September is set in a large upstate house and centres around a group of people, all of whom are troubled in some way or the other. Interiors was a bleakly depressing film but September is realistic in its portrayal of hidden secrets and desires.

    Both films are anchored by strong mother characters - the magnificent Geraldine Page in Interiors and Elaine Stritch in this one. Stritch plays Diane Frazer, a one time movie star who now descends on her daughter Lane's (Mia Farrow) house, with baggage in the form of Lloyd (Jack Warden), a new husband, in tow. Diane is terribly shallow and too often drunk, something that induces a certain disgust in Lane, who finds herself passed over or simply ignored. This is made worse by Lane's own history of depression and debt and the obvious fact that neither mother nor daughter really care for each other any more comes to the fore very soon.

    Also present are Howard (Denholm Elliot), a neighbour who's in love with Lane, Peter (Sam Waterston in the best role I've seen him in), a would-be author who's staying in the guest house and is the object of Lane's affection and Steffie, Lane's best friend, played with great vulnerability by Dianne Wiest, who had just won her first Oscar for Hannah and her Sisters. Howard loves Lane who's attracted to Peter as a way out of her trouble. Peter falls for Steffie, while Steffie simply doesn't understand what to do. The stage is set very well (indeed this has the atmosphere of a well-acted play) and the tension builds slowly, especially between Lane and her mother until it reaches a climax and a horrifying revelation.

    This film works because Woody's dialogue is unbeatable as usual and because the atmosphere is just perfect for the film to play out. The lack of background music is very reminiscent of Interiors but September is a better film, managing to deal with the fractured emotions of its characters better than Interiors. This film plays out slowly, peeling off layers from the facade of the characters and revealing them to be bruised and battered souls, each in their own way. Where Interiors left me cold, disillusioned and unable to relate to the characters, September was much more realistic in its exploration of human beings and how they react to other human beings. I give it an 8/10.
  • Out of all Woody's film's I still find this the most difficult to watch,and after seeing Bergmans's 'Autumn sonata' I noticed some striking similarities.For example,this may only be coincidence but the way that Mia Farrow's character looks (Her glasses,her hair) bears a striking resemblence to the daughter in 'Autumn sonata' played by Liv ullmann.In both films we have a dominant mother who the daughter hates for something that she had done in the past.

    I think when you know that Woody took two attempts to film this there was definitely something wrong somewhere.
  • Woody Allen's dramas aren't the cup of tea of most audiences but the ones who have the patience and understanding of what this genius is trying to do are certainly rewarded. Flowing like a play, "September" takes place in a summer house in Vermont where three couples are vacationing in a relative tranquility that is about to be disturbed a little when some of them fully realizes they married the wrong partner and they want to live the right one.

    So, we have Lane and Peter (Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston), Stephanie and Howard (Dianne Wiest and Denholm Elliott) and the veterans Diane and Lloyd (Elaine Stritch and Jack Warden) and here's how things turn between part of them: Howard loves Lane and she seems connected with him but she can't leave her husband, who is deeply in love by Stephanie, who is trying to resist his attempts for her. While these four are clinging to their own feelings, remembering the past and all, the older couple (Lane's mother and her step dad) seems to be having a good time and making some plans for the future that might upset the eternally depressed Lane.

    With this crossed couples and their broken hearts, Allen touches us by saying that we shouldn't be attached to anything. We shouldn't be so attached to other people (because they disappoint you no matter the relations you had with them); we shouldn't be attached to things (as later is shown when Lane's mother wants to sell Lane's house and we have this huge argument about the good connection, the memories they had with the place); and most of all we shouldn't be so attached to our memories (perhaps the most dangerous of the ties). But, we're human beings and this sense of being connected with something or somebody is what makes us different from other creatures, so how do we end with? How do we make things in the way of not suffering? What does this character will make with their lives? Us and them are going to still be living in the same old contradiction of all, doing the things we don't want to, maybe one day, get the things we really want. And it all happened in that crazy month of August (if you pay attention the story takes place in August, not September). How's things going to be in September, the future? Who can tell?

    It's a minor work by Woody, who seemed to be looking for perfection with such fine material that he filmed one version with different actors (Sam Shepard, Charles Durning and Maureen O'Sullivan replaced by Waterston, Elliott and Stritch) to later make this final version cause he saw things weren't working the way he wanted with that cast. I don't know why such demands (it cost a lot in his budget and the movie failed at box-office, and now it's one of his more obscure works, his least known); the script is well written, Allen at its best with dialogs and inspired dramatic moments (exchanges between Stritch and Farrow are amazing, the whole cast is brilliant).

    If you found it must be watched because of its great cast and the compelling plot Allen creates with these characters. I dare to say "September" is one of his finest works. 10/10
  • This is a good film, and would make a truly GREAT theatrical performance.

    The low IMDb rating is attributable to the moments when the film slipped a little, and Woody Allen's effort, instead of his genius, comes through.

    But this film is made by Lane's slowly crumbling edifice and her mother's brash incompetence. The plot regarding their tragic past is captivating, and makes the romantic plots appear frivolous. The 'climax' scene is excellent, complete with a truly GREAT twist.

    This film is a much better movie than the 6.1 IMDb rating gave it credit for. I got really drawn into this movie. I found myself quite dumbstruck. And Lane's anguish was so real.

    For fans of Woody Allen's more "somber" works, must-see. And I guarantee it's better than Match Point.
  • One of Woody Allen's most maligned films, this is nevertheless not as poor as what one might expect, and there are a number of good things about the production. Aside from the interesting philosophies that one expects from a serious Allen film, the film is also quite well shot, coupled with an interesting yellow art direction scheme. The weather sound effects work quite well, but the best aspect is however the performances by Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest. It is not the best work in the career of either actress, but they both flesh out their characters quite well. It is a pretty mournful film in Ingmar Bergman style, lacking in any wit from Allen, and it is a talkative and abrupt watch at times. It is not one of Woody Allen's best films, but it has too many good things about it to be regarded as his worst.
  • Woody Allen in this movie brings to us the story of a group of people all staying at a summer home in the country. It's a very dark and claustrophobic place. And at this place we learn so much about the characters. This is a very deep character study and I think it's the best Allen "bergmanesque" film he's made. It has been highly underrated by people and critics. I feel it does not get any of the recognition it should. And Mia Farrow's and Sam Waterston's performances are magnificent.
  • SEPTEMBER is living proof that even a genius can screw up. I'm a real fan of Woody Allen's, and I even thought that "Interiors", which the critics carved up, wasn't so bad. But 'September' is a real dog, a genuine bow-wow. I came across it in the video store (I forget which category I found it under, but it should have been 'Horror'); I hadn't heard of it but was attracted by the cast - Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Denholm Elliot and Jack Warden among others.

    We are dumped abruptly into a summer house in Vermont where four neurotic, repressed, and emotionally constipated people are discussing with each other how miserable they are. This interminable whining is interrupted by the arrival of the parents of Lane (Mia Farrow). This provides a change of character - instead of neurotic we get wimpy (the father) and obnoxiously self-centered (the mother). The rest of the movie deals with the emotional entanglements of these six boring folks, with more whining and some inane philosophizing thrown in. The dialogue is leaden enough to sink the Lusitania, the pacing is slower than grain delivery in the former USSR, and action is non-existent (nothing HAPPENS). The movie ends as abruptly as it began, leaving the viewer (assuming he got that far), with two thoughts - 1) thank God, and, 2) what the Hell was the point?

    Forget it. See "Love and Death" or "Sleeper" again.
  • This is the film that Woody Allen notoriously shot and then scrapped, re-wrote, re-cast and re-shot, and was reportedly keen to do it a third time. But to be honest, I really wish he'd just left it scrapped. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Allen fan, and would sit down to watch anything by him, comedy or drama, and on top of that, I'm also a fan of Ingmar Bergman, whom Allen admires greatly and has obviously taken huge inspiration from for September, most notably his film Autumn Sonata. I also have great respect for Woody's constant desire to do his own thing, his desire to never get caught up in the demands of mainstream, money-making Hollywood, and his determination to always be different. But in this case, his desire to be different hinders September totally, and what could have been a thoughtful and original psychological drama ends up being a desperate attempt by Allen to be as bleak and "different" as possible, and is unnecessarily tedious and condescending.

    The story is simple. A group of six people, (in my opinion some of the most boring characters ever assembled), gather together one summer at a country house. From there on in, there is lifeless and at times pointless drama between the characters as they all deal with love and evaluating their lives, each one more annoying than the last, completely lacking any power or conviction.

    The concept of the film is fascinating, and suits a filmmaker like Allen, who focuses primarily on characters and their thoughts and feelings above all else, particularly in his dramas, down to the ground. The film is a chamber piece, that is, it focuses on a very small number of characters in the one setting from start to finish. Also, Allen's main idea is to film in the style of a play as much as possible, using long, un-broken shots and keeping any unnecessary camera movements like close-ups to a minimum. The fusion of these two mediums is an extremely interesting idea, and is appropriate for the material. So far, so interesting. But unfortunately, that still leaves the rest of the film to look at.

    Pretension is the word of the day in September, and as interesting as its premise is, everything else about it feels forcedly unglamorous and so unnecessarily bland, almost as if Allen was curious as to just how independent and how anti-Hollywood he could make a film. But as great an idea as that sounds, there's a huge difference between making a film that's genuinely different and non-mainstream, and making a film that's just trying to be different for the sake of being different and rubbing it in the faces of mainstream films and film-watchers everywhere, and to me that's all September is. Nothing feels natural about this film, and it doesn't feel like it was made to be good, it just seems like Allen's attempt to be as different and as "indie" as possible, with no effort at actually making it good.

    What doesn't help is that an experienced and talented cast turn in drab and lifeless performances, though one of the main reasons for this is that they all find themselves stuck with boring, one-dimensional and frankly whiny characters that spend the entire film upset or sad about their lives, but lacking any real emotional depth or personality, instead just doing it because Allen wants the film to be as bleak and dramatic as possible. Taking the lead role, Mia Farrow as Lane begins as probably the most human of all the characters, and the one that seems most real, but by the end has become the most boring and whiny of them all, with a pretty lacklustre performance. Sam Waterston as Peter is diabolical, delivering a totally flat and ridiculously wooden performance, almost like an acting student performing in front of his peers for the first time. On a par with Waterston's awful performance is that of Dianne Wiest as Stephanie who is about as interesting and emotionally engaging as a doorknob, and whose story of her failing marriage is as short on depth and insightfulness as her head is of hair.

    Luckily there are a few worthwhile performances, notably Denholm Elliott who gives a very interesting and subtle performance as Howard, the man in love with Lane, who is one of the only characters with any real appeal or feeling in the whole film, but who unfortunately is barely used. Another god performance comes from Elaine Stritch as Lane's mother Diane, who although gives a convincing and at times genuinely emotionally engrossing performance, is also saddled with an uninteresting and unengaging character. Strong support comes also from Jack Warner as Lane's stepfather Lloyd, an enjoyable and interesting character with intelligent and intriguing insights into life.

    As regards the poor performances, it would be unfair to say that it's totally the actors' fault, as they were dealing with a director who was after nothing more than ponderous melodrama and banal story-telling, and although conceived an unusual and interesting idea, was incapable of avoiding pretentiousness and one-dimension. Woody Allen has been responsible for many intelligent, engaging and extremely moving films. Go and watch those instead, as this is not one of them.
  • September is what I call a real estate movie, because what happens isn't nearly as interesting as where it all happens. In this case, the real estate is a cozy country cottage in Vermont, a warm and cheerfully decorated little place far from the city. The shades are always closed, but warm, golden, late summer sunlight filters through, suggesting that it would be a wonderful place to either visit or, better still, to grow old in. It looks so real and richly detailed that it is hard to believe that it is a set, built for the movie in some New York film studio. The creepy thing about Woody Allen's September is that this totally make-believe house is more realistic than the characters who gather inside.

    September is another of Woody's beautifully detailed, sensitively written, lovingly acted and utterly annoying "serious" films. There is a smattering of not-particularly-funny bits of humor, designed to suggest that the characters are clever people, but once again the main traits shared by all are indecisiveness, depression and a gift for long-winded bouts of self pity. The six main characters who spend the weekend in this country home spend a lot of time talking about their feelings, though one has a hard time believing that any of them actually have real feelings. Instead everyone seems to be doing psychotherapy exercises designed to help them self-consciously get in touch with themselves. The end result of this achingly insincere sincerity is an intense desire by the viewer to want to give each and every cast member a sincere slap across the face.

    During their years together, Allen gave to his partner Mia Farrow some of the best roles of her career -- as well as some of her worst. This may be the worst; certainly it allows her to indulge in her unfortunate tendency to whine and blubber in despair. The most intriguing aspect of September is that it is inspired by a bit of Hollywood legend, the death of Lana Turner's gangster boyfriend at the hands of her teenage daughter. Allen takes that infamous scandal and uses it as the seed for this film's drama. Farrow plays Lane, who is still living down the notoriety of having killed her celebrity mother's abusive boyfriend and who is now recuperating from her most recent suicide attempt. The feelings of guilt, shame, animosity, bitterness and envy shared between Lane and her mother, Diane (played by Elaine Stritch), would seem to be sufficient to sustain an interesting drama. But Allen uses the dirty little secret behind the old scandal as a minor plot twist, and instead focuses most of the film on a trite four-sided love triangle, in which passion is secondary to unrelenting discussions about each characters' unrequited passions.

    Howard (Denholm Elliott) loves Lane, who loves Peter (Sam Waterston), who has a thing for Stephanie (Diane Wiest), who is married but returns Peter's feelings even though she knows that she is betraying Lane, blah, blah, blah. It all seems so high school, especially since they all talk about this, but are paralyzed to act on those feelings. Meanwhile Diane loves only Diane, even though she is partnered with Lloyd (Jack Warden), a melancholy physicist who is depressed over how utterly meaningless existence is.

    The problem isn't so much the trite plotting as it is the overall and overwhelming tone of the drama. Woody walked this path before (six characters in a country house) in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY, but did so with a sense of whimsy and an unexpected show of hopeful romance. In September, the characters all talk with that hushed, sterile, halting formality that Allen apes from pretentious European art films. Everyone seems dubbed, disconnected from both their feelings and their dialogue. They might as well be discussing their income tax returns, though that would probably inspire much more enthusiasm. Such pregnant disconnection from emotion all but guarantees audience indifference and certainly is wrong for a story delving into the life of an emotionally disturbed woman.

    As for the house itself, the set design, the lighting and the cinematography conspire to make this make-believe slice of rural eden so invitingly charming that it all but betrays the notion that the little house is meant to represent a prison -- or an asylum, if you prefer. It comes to represent the past Lane wants to shed and the past Diane wants to recapture. It is a battlefield to reclaim the honesty of their shared past. To the audience, no matter how flimsy the walls, it is the single thing in the entire film that offers warmth, comfort and promise. And it is an illusion. Which may have been Allen's point from the start.
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