1978 / Best Director

Film #543: Interiors (1978)

While I’ve enjoyed my look back at the work of Woody Allen I haven’t been entranced by the last couple of films in the way I thought I would be. In my final piece on Allen I turn to one of his films that I know little to nothing about apart from the fact that it was nominated for a number of Oscars. That film is Interiors; a rare dramatic outing for Allen that was released a year after his Best Picture-winning Annie Hall.

In a sort of precursor to Hannah and Her Sisters, focuses on three siblings; Renata, Joey and Flynn all of whom are caught up in a whirlwind of sorts when their parents separate. The separation comes after their father Arthur announces that he wants a simpler life and is leaving their mother Eve. However Eve doesn’t take the news at all well and attempts suicide meaning that both Renata and Joey are called in to look after her. Both of these girls have their own issues with Joey struggling to find a career path and Renata having problems in her marriage with writer Frederick. Meanwhile, actress Flynn is barely around as she is often off appearing in questionable projects that she hope will further her career. Events take a turn in the second half of the film when Arthur returns from a holiday in Greece accompanied by a new woman Pearl. Pearl is different from Eve in almost every way and is a lot more down-to-earth than the sisters and doesn’t occupy the intellectual world that they live in. The film then leads up to the small wedding that Pearl and Arthur have in the family’s summer house in which most of the action takes place. Although Interiors does have a tragic ending there is also hope for the future especially in terms of Pearl’s relationship with Arthur’s daughters.

I feel my problem with the last couple of Woody Allen films on this list is that they haven’t really captured my imagination and although they were entertaining I didn’t find much going on below the surface. This certainly isn’t the case with Interiors, a film which took me a while to get into but after I did I was completely hooked. Through his Oscar-nominated screenplay what Allen manages to do is give each of the primary characters their own distinct traits which are built on throughout. I think as an audience member I knew how each person would react to a certain situation and by the end I found that I really cared about these characters. I think one of Allen’s masterstrokes is to make Arthur possibly the most sympathetic character of the bunch even though he’s the one who leaves his wife and returns from holiday with a new woman on his arm. I think we can sympathise with Arthur as he seems stuck in a world which is too complicated for him and one that the lovely Pearl will take him away from. I do feel these are the most well-rounded characters in an Allen film I think I’ve seen and it’s good to see him working within a dramatic setting.

Interestingly, Interiors garnered the most nominations of any film in 1978 that was nominated for Best Picture which suggests that it may have just missed out on inclusion. I definitely feel that it deserves it as it’s a film that works on so many layers and isn’t just well written but well designed as well. Oscar obviously realised this hence a nomination for the production team on Interiors whilst I feel that the costume design was equally impressive with each character having their own distinct style. As Interiors was an ensemble piece I think it was hard to pick out one stellar performance out of a fantastic company however the Academy gave nominations to both Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton. Page’s performance as the fragile matriarch Eve was seen as a leading one whilst Stapleton’s turn as the worldly wise Pearl was relegated to the supporting category even though I thought each woman was on equal footing. Indeed if there are lead performances in Interiors then they come from Diane Keaton and Mary Beth Hurt as Renata and Joey as they have the lion’s share of the screen time. Keaton was particularly brilliant and in my humble opinion I think she was better here than she was in Annie Hall. I think the acting in Interiors is the perfect reason why there should be an ensemble cast award at the Oscars, a fact that has come up again this year thanks to the likes of The Big Short and Spotlight.

If Interiors did indeed feature in the Best Picture line-up that year then it would most likely have replaced An Unmarried Woman, the only film not to receive a Best Director nod. I think this would be a shame as it was a film I personally enjoyed very much and in a way works as an interesting companion piece to Interiors. If any film didn’t deserve a Best Picture nod in 1978 then it was Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait, a movie that wasn’t enjoyable but not outstanding. If Interiors had replaced Heaven Can Wait then I think it would’ve improved that year’s Best Picture category immensely due to the fact that Allen’s film is a compelling look at family life bolstered by a fantastic ensemble cast.

Next time we return to 1989, the same year that Crimes and Misdemeanors was released, to look at another film that received a Best Director nomination opposite Woody Allen.

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