Deconstructing Harry

Deconstructing Harry is Woody Allen's latest offering. The movie is a disjointed and pathetic portrayal of a nihilistic author, Harry Block (Allen), who can only live in the world created by his imagination. In a sense, like the character Johnny in Naked, he goes about sullying the lives of everyone he encounters. In the movie, everything he does is handled in a comical/sarcastic manner, leaving us with a figure who doesn't inspire love or hate, but just pity. Perhaps that's the point.

There is a lot of post-modern deconstruction going on, and the title of the movie is almost self referential, both in terms of how the movie works, and Woody Allen's own lifestyle. But not all deconstruction attempts are successful. I can't say exactly where Deconstructing Harry fails. The portrayal of Harry really caring about his pupil (Elizabeth Shue) and opposing his best friend's (Billy Crystal) involvement with her is cheesy. The love he shows for his son is insincere. The interludes into Harry's imaginative world generally appear forced. All this insincerity goes back to the fact that what's foremost on Harry's mind at all times is himself. The movie tries, every so often, to invoke empathy for its title character, but that never works.

On the positive side, there are amusing one-liners throughout the movie, and that alone makes this movie worth watching. What worked as far as I am concerned is the anti-religious and anti-god sentiments. And it works not just because of the bitingly sarcastic manner that hypocrisies in religion and god are revealed, but because it is one aspect of Harry himself, and not limited to his imagination. It shows that he has some passions, some foundation, outside and independent of his work. Spineless as he is, he's willing to take a stand on this one issue, in essence providing a reason for nihilism.

In the end, I was left pondering what Allen, as a director, expects the reaction of the audience to be (if he made it as a self indulgent masturbatory exercise, he'll get no argument from me). Harry is completely devoid of any character. Since there is so much focus on this character, all the others don't get much time. This results in a movie that is without substance, for all its post-modern pretense.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||