Interiors (1978)

Director: Woody Allen

Starring (in alphabetical order): Kristin Griffith, Mary Beth Hurt, Richard Jordan, Diane Keaton, E.G. Marshall, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Sam Waterston

Unhappiness and resentment, unchecked, leads only to more unhappiness and resentment. “I’ve never been able fulfill my dreams, and it’s all YOUR fault!” Like a volcano, the emotions build and build until the eventual eruption burns away everything that was good about the relationship. Time to make a clean break. But what if there are kids involved? Depends… Are the ‘children’ fully grown adults? If so, surely they’d be better equipped to handle the bombshell that’s about to be dropped in their laps, right? If they’re anything like their parents, any brave face they put on in public is merely a mask that shelters their own insecurities.

The three daughters of Arthur (E.G. Marshall) and Eve (Geraldine Page) are stunned when Arthur abruptly announces at the dinner table that he’s leaving Eve and choosing to live alone. None are more shocked by the news than Eve who, as an interior decorator, is used to a certain degree of order to her life where everything fits in its proper place. The idea that her husband wants out of their marriage is too much for poor Eve to bear, and results in suicidal tendencies that causes her well-being to weigh heavily on the minds of her children. It’s not as though they don’t have enough about their own lives that they wish they could change. Flyn (Kristin Griffith) is an actress who stars in second-rate movies, desiring to be taken seriously in her profession instead of being looked upon as merely a pretty face. Renata (Diane Keaton) is a poet whose own self-criticism is rivaled by that of her husband Frederick (Richard Jordan), a writer whose failings leave him feeling hopelessly inferior to his wife. At least they’ve found their chosen career paths. Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) isn’t so lucky. She doesn’t understand why Mike (Sam Waterston) would stick around with someone as aimless as her, let alone want to have children with her.

The real shock is when Arthur returns from his time away with a new, more “normal” girlfriend, Pearl (Maureen Stapelton), whom he met on a cruise and intends to marry. Joey is outright appalled. Renata is more supportive, but is disappointed when her father shows more concern for Joey’s lack of direction. Renata has always been jealous of her father’s perceived favoritism towards Joey who, in turn, says the same about Renata and their mother. All three daughters know what the news of Arthur and Pearl will do to their mother’s psyche. Up until now, she’s been holding out hope that all will right itself and that Arthur would eventually come back to her.

If this family is collectively guilty of any one crime, it is that they have spent too much time together. It’s clear from the moment we are introduced to them that all each person wants is to live their own lives. If left to their own devices, it would be tough to say that they could actually accomplish this. By the time the movie reaches its conclusion, the thought remains that whatever hurts they have accumulated as a unit, the current generation will separately carry on with them to the end of their days.

Depressing and dark though its subject matter can be, “Interiors” is really a beautiful movie. Woody Allen’s tribute to Swedish cinema, it was the most atypical of his movies up to that point. Any humor to be found is purely incidental. “Interiors” is not burdened by distractions. Keeping the cast small was key, as it allows the audience to become intimately involved with his characters, who are serviced by the plot instead of the other way around. Loathsome though their behavior is at times, these eight individuals all feel like real people. My favorite is Frederick, excellently played by Richard Jordan. He’s a drunkard wallowing in self-pity and jealousy, with a touch of lust directed at Renata’s sister, Flyn. What a schmuck, but I like him anyway!

Most striking about “Interiors” is the impeccable way in which certain scenes are shot. There is the opening shot, an empty, silent house which has been been beautifully decorated. I’m told it would be hard not to think of director Ingmar Bergman, which Allen has often referenced during his career, if one were more familiar with Bergman’s work. I really must look into that. Regardless of your familiarity with the source material, the scene is still very well shot. But the one I think about most is a curious choice of camerawork during one of Renata and Frederick’s arguments. She’s about to go out to some type of social gathering where people dress formally, and he’s too drunk and too pissed off about his short-comings to care enough to attend. Instead of framing this scene as if standing in the room with them as they bicker, or as a POV shot from one or the other character’s perspectives, the camera is instead hiding at the top of the stairs like an eavesdropping child. Absolutely perfect.

Never having seen “Interiors” before now and having no idea what to expect, I was dazzled by just how good this movie turned out to be. Apparently, so was Woody Allen, who was afraid all through production that it would turn out to be a bomb. He needn’t have been so concerned. “Interiors” features his most fleshed-out characters and a troupe of excellent actors to bring them to life. What more could a director ask for? Though it runs short of laughs, heart is not something which “Interiors” lacks. With a movie like this, it’s what’s on the inside that counts most of all.

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Comments
  1. subitolove says:

    Nice read! Check out my review on The Imitation Game! ; )

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