Deconstructing Harry (1997) Poster

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Vulgar, funny, honest, sad, a little bizarre
Kiwi-73 March 1999
Woody bares his soul--again--and if the introspective vision of the sad clown (growing old) isn't what you're expecting, the film is likely to be a disappointment. The film is funny, of course, and vulgar (as most Allen movies are), but it's also bitter and cynical, and rather sad.

The jerky jump-cuts might be a stylized editing cover-up for jumping from take to take to utilise the best performances of a pantheon of actors, or they might be planned...I don't know. I had to see a few of them before I settled into accepting them as "the style", but I decided they work in this film.

Other "user comments" complain about Woody and the sexy young women. That bothers me in some films, but not here. Here it's part of Harry's character--part of Woody's "character"--and is clearly part of his problem.

I think this is an honest film, a sad and revealing film about one of the most clever and creative writers in America. It's funny, it's witty, and it's also depressing. It has moments of pure, laugh-out-loud humour (eg. the elevator going down to the bottom floor of hell; Harry arriving at the honouring ceremony with a dead body, a prostitute, and his "kidnapped" son in the car), but underneath it's the story of a man who cannot function happily in real life, only in the fictions he creates. Although fantasy plays a major role in the story, the story is not a fantasy. The parallels between Allen himself and the character and plot he's created here are obvious.

I enjoyed watching this video, and would recommend it-- selectively--to friends. If you like the Allen sense of humour, want to see a fairly unusual editing style used effectively, want to see some superb acting cameos by some very talented actors, or have an interest in the torments of a neurotic middle-aged genius and how they might be revealed on film, then you'll like this movie. If this doesn't sound like your kind of thing, watch something else.
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One of Allen's Best
ES-III8 November 2002
Just as I've found a newfound appreciation for Elvis Costello, I've likewise opened my heart to Woody Allen (my New Year's resolution: be nicer to nerdy art-types). I even saw Deconstructing Harry twice, (after which I read a Woody Allen collection of short pieces and rented both Bananas and Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex). Hey, what can I say – I thought The Purple Rose Of Cairo might've been a fluke, but I guess I'm just a Woody Allen fan now.

Deconstructing Harry is laugh-out-loud funny, tracing the steps of Harry Block, a neurotic, foul-mouthed, Jewish, self-hating, pill-popping, womanizing alcoholic (three wives and six therapists later) that oddly enough, resembles Woody Allen and his own life (give or take a few things). Block has (giggle) writer's block, and can't write about his life. As a result, he becomes `unfocused,' entangling himself in fact and fiction (i.e. he interacts with his own characters). `You expect the world to adjust to the distortion you've become,' Harry's analyst tells him. What follows is a series of skits that interact with the past and present and the real and imagined – it's kind of like watching a Kurt Vonnegut story edited by Quentin Tarentino.

The all-star cast is phenomenal: Robin Williams is hilarious, Kirstie Alley is hysterically funny, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is super-sexy and Elizabeth Shue is as sweet as sugar. Billy Crystal even pulls off a good role as the Devil. But other than the characterization, Woody's new flick is witty, cold-hearted, extremely vulgar, often tasteless and perfectly profane with enough catch-lines to keep film buffs cracking for years (`I always keep a little hooker money around'). Hannah And Her Sisters this ain't!
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Allen at his best
Primtime22 August 1999
Regardless of what Woody Allen may do in real life, he surely shines through his films. Just like the main character in this film who can't seem to get personal matters resolved, Allen faces the same predicament each day. He lets his films do the talking and stays away from the limelight. Deconstructing Harry does him justice in a few sequences as to what he feels and how the media treats him.

This film showcases some of Allen's better quirks when it comes to storywriting and directing. The much used "jump cut" effect helps to create a world that is disjointed from all else. When things are going fine, there are no jump cuts. However when things are less than opportune jump cuts add confusion to the scene and are used more often as the tension increases. The "out of focus" effect is the first of its kind and is very funny. The Robin Williams cameo didn't have much meaning, but his scene was one of the funniest due to him losing his touch. The same effect is used on Allen himself later in the film in another hillarious scene.

The storyline has many layers and isn't at all confusing (as others may have you believe) to the viewer. The use of actors portraying actors in this film is pure Allen genius and is another way that this film differs itself from the crowd. It is not so much that one follows along to see what happens to Harry, but rather to see what is going to happen next. When Allen needs an entourage to go to his alma mater honouring, he ends up taking a very unlikely group. The humour is at times crude and pokes fun at his usual groups (ie - ultraorthodox jews, hookers, WASP's and just about everyone else).

Allen uses his interesting techniques and smart plot to make this such a good film. One can only wonder how he always gets the foxes. At least he got Billy Crystal to play the devil. How fitting.

8/10 stars.
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Allen's most underrated film
elf674 August 2001
It isn't as lovable as "Annie Hall" or "Hannah and Her Sisters," and it's not as overtly philosophical as "Crimes and Misdemeanors." And that's probably why "Deconstructing Harry" is underrated by film/Allen fans. Still, it ranks among the Top 5 Allen films. Woody plays a Philip Roth-like fiction writer who is lecherous, unlikable, and disloyal; in dropping his "cute loser" shtick, the performance rings with more honesty than he's had in years. In a nod to Bergman's "Wild Strawberries," Allen's character has a chance to reflect on his life as he travels to a university for an honor. Memories mix with scenes this writer's fiction, providing opportunities for the large and excellent ensemble cast. Many of Allen's later films seem tired, but the neurotic jumpiness he brings to "Deconstructing Harry" reinjects energy into his work. If you loved "Husbands and Wives," try this. I rate it 9.
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One of his better movies, where you can see the possibilities of true cinema
daanbolder19 May 2004
I'm sure some people wouldn't agree with me, but this movie is a great piece of art on film. Like Hitchcock, Coppola, and others, Woody Allen is a real cinema artist. He makes great use of the possibilities of cinema without losing himself in expensive special effects.

Of course cinema is a medium to create a near-perfect realism on a fictional story. But it can also be an artistic medium. Playing with the possibilities. An example in this film is Robin Williams. A men who is 'out of focus'.

The story is, like most films, not very original. A character that struggles with his personality and social life. But unlike most movies, you can see an artist made this film. It's a Woody Allen creation. His own style, his own characters, his own humor. Not a collection of an expensive scriptwriter with an expensive director, an expensive special effects team , an expensive director of photography etc. to make a total non-personal creation for the big public. Of course the whole crew did a perfect job, but it is surely a Woody Allen film!

A great movie with a nice plot. Some nice switching in timeline and fiction / reality (for the story that is) makes it more interesting then the story really is. Also the jumpcuts, the camera movement, the cast and the humor are making this film a must see! Even if you are not a Woody Allen fan you will like this movie. If you are a fan of big blockbuster movies (standard Hollywood confention movies) this movie is a must see as well! Not only to see the real art of cinema (something different then perfect special effects) but also just for a nice evening and some good humor.
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One Of Woody's Best
tonstant viewer22 September 2002
In a string of films that recapitulate familiar themes, this one stands out as perhaps the loudest cry of anguish and self-loathing, and it's a comedy.

Where Woody Allen has paid serious hommages to other artists' bleak "heaviosity" (his word) and inevitably come up short, here he does a blistering comic riff on two of the greatest films of the 20th century, Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" and Fellini's "8½."

The parallels to the Bergman film are obvious and much discussed. The bits of Fellini are less often recognized, including the complaining wife, the impossible mistress, other people's demands creating a totally chaotic existence, closing with a yearning fantasy of getting everybody in his life together in one place and time to create harmony and wholeness. In Woody's version, we even have a double for Mia in the reunion, as if some kind of healing reconciliation were possible.

So Woody hits the wall, looks at his life, can't stand any of it and rips the bark off his own skin. What can seem like self-indulgence in other films is not forgiven here. He writes scathing, vituperative attacks on himself for other character's mouths and the viewer can only gape.

Lots of fun, but not for the whole family.

The only mystery is why, at the time I write this, Imdb singles out such a lame misfire of a slam for the first page of this movie's entry. Just about anybody else who has posted has a better understanding of the film.
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A Tour De Force
nelsoneddy11 December 2005
Deconstructing Harry is Woody Allen's masterpiece. The editing is unlike anything else Allen has done, full of little cuts which give the movie a level of abstraction that raises you above the narrative thread. It was instantly my favorite Allen film and has remained so ever since. Praised when it came out for its unflinching honesty, it eschews the self-glorifying cuteness of his other quasi-autobiographical movies such as Stardust Memories and Annie Hall and even Manhattan.

The main conceit of this movie is that Allen's character, writer Harry Block (get it?), meets his alter egos and other characters from his writing as though in real life. Block's characters have been modeled with almost no attempt to disguise them on his relatives and ex-relationships, which infuriates and sometimes devastates them. You have to follow very carefully to distinguish the "real life" relatives from the alter egos who spring to life from the pages of his books.

Block has many very seamy weaknesses and peccadilloes which he readily admits and indulges without remorse. His "real life" relatives and exes submit him to scathing criticism and resentment, while their "fictional" counterparts contribute a more dispassionate and omniscient commentary on Block's misdeeds and poor judgment. The cast is among Allen's most star-studded and uniformly brilliant. It's always fun to watch actors appearing in their only Allen film, and there are many here. My favorite is Billy Crystal, who plays a friend of Block's who stole his lover--and also appears as the devil giving Block the cook's tour of the tenth circle of Hell.

To maintain this complexity of voices requires brilliant writing, and Allen does not disappoint. My favorite quote is:

Doris: Your whole life, it's nihilism, it's cynicism, it's sarcasm and orgasm.

Block: You know, in France, I could run on that slogan and win.

If I were one for condescendingly dogmatic assertions, and I'm not, but if I were, I would tell you that if you do not love this movie, you are watching Woody Allen movies for the wrong reasons.

For the record, rounding out my top five Allen movies are: Mighty Aphrodite, Bullets Over Broadway, Small Time Crooks, and Stardust Memories, with honorable mention to Shadows and Fog.
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Deconstructing Woody Allen
radlov30 September 1999
Very funny, very coarse, very Woody Allen. This movie not only has autobiographical elements, Harry Block to a large extent is Woody Allen himself. I think never a director exposed the weaknesses of his own "ego" as mercilessly as Woody did in this film, descending into the deepest layers of the "id", into the very depths of hell (literally, with all the molten lava and sulfur smoke that go with it)! But Woody Allen covers this merciless exercise of psychoanalysis with a thick cover of humor. It is also a very funny movie!
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Simultaneously narcissistic & self-critical, pretentious & profound
pfate1215 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Allen's vainly revealing, yet mostly unflattering self-portrait-film succeeds by remaining increasingly challenging, surprising and offensive throughout its 1.5 hour runtime. With a large all-star cast of A-listers entertaining in supporting roles, Allen deftly blurs the lines between his real-life self and his on-screen character, between reality and fiction, between confabulation and recollection. His charming artistic talents and disturbing character flaws are on full display with equal transparency, finished off with a touch of his trademark cynicism. Allen's concluding self- assessment is both poignant and relevant for those of us privileged enough to live in the developed world.

Not to be overlooked is the sometimes shocking black and blue comedy: a mixture of tasteless sight gags, crude language and hyperbole that culminates in a perfectly outlandish final sequence that may or may not take place outside of our universe. The original and disoriented editing reinforces the dream-like quality of the picture and also charges viewers to confront the ways in which we voluntarily distort our own perceptions of reality. It is this insight that separates Deconstructing Harry from Allen's other pictures, which are generally shallow (albeit entertaining), self-serving examinations of love, lust and the "meaning of life." Those who say that this film is mainly recycled material or that this is just an unapologetic attempt by Allen to repair his image have sadly missed the point.
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're-make' of Wild Strawberries!!
goldmanj29 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** Did anybody notice that this film is loosely inspired by Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries'? That film which is the first 'road movie' that I know of, and is also about an old man who hits the road on his way to accept an award at a university, who fills the car with an odd assortment of people and flashes-back incessantly on his life and oeuvre while going through a major life-crisis; the parts where Woody is allowed to look on at his sister as she talks about him is taken directly from the Bergman film. And, whereas in Strawberries, it is revealed that the protagonist was in love with the girl (Bibi Anderson) who eventually married his brother, in Woody's film, it's the protagonist who dumps his n'th wife (Amy Irving) and is sleeping with her sister - though actually, in this case, he dumps her too and ends up with Elizabeth Shue... Allen out-philanders Bergman... Anyway, both are great films and it's not surprising that Woody uses his all-time hero Ingemar as a model. But personally, I'd take make-me-wanna-cry gorgeous blond Ingrid Thulin over the nevertheless-cute blond Elizabeth Shue any day!!
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Profane Woody
Ricky_Roma__18 December 2005
It's a shame that so much negative criticism focuses on Deconstructing Harry's bad language, because this is one of Allen's funniest, smartest and most perceptive films. In fact, it may actually be his best film full stop – only Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanours can challenge Harry. But although the bad language and crudity may affect some people's enjoyment of the film, for me, as someone who loves bad taste, it's a major benefit, especially as it's a side of Allen we rarely see. I mean, we're used to the romantic Allen and the neurotic Allen, and we've even had serious Allen, but here you have Allen almost becoming Philip Roth. It's very enjoyable to watch.

In this film, Allen's alter ego is Harry Block, a writer in the mould of Philip Roth who, in the words of one his exes, turns everyone else's suffering into literary gold. And this assertion is corroborated by the opening scene, a section from one his books where a man and a woman who are having an affair, during a barbecue, decide to have sex in a bathroom while their spouses are eating in the garden. It's a very funny scene, especially as an attempted blow-job is interrupted by a false alarm (the woman grinds her teeth when the man spots his wife) and as some doggy-style sex is interrupted by the woman's blind grandmother coming into the room (when asked what's happening, the woman tells her grandmother that she's making Martinis while they continue banging away). But while the scene is absolutely hilarious, it does also have a point. This is a scene from Harry's life. He's using it in his work. Therefore his ex isn't too happy to find this episode in his book. Of course, Harry tries to explain that it was 'loosely based' (the grandmother was an embellishment), but that doesn't cut much ice with his ex, who's having all of the sordid details of her affair revealed to friends and family. So the film touches on ideas of a writer's responsibility. What's exploitation and what's inspiration?

One of the most revealing sections of the film is when Harry talks to his therapist. He discusses his attitude to women. "I'm always thinking of f****** every woman I meet… I see a woman on a bus. I think what she looks like naked. Is it possible I might f*** her?" Essentially Harry is a man who has never grown up. He can't commit and he can't sustain a relationship with a woman, a fact backed up by his string of exes and his affection for prostitutes. Indeed, for him, whores are perfect. You don't have to woo them, they don't nag you and they do whatever you want; all you've got to do is pay them. And in the film, Harry takes Cookie, a black prostitute ("Do you know what a black hole is?" Harry asks her. "Yeah, that's how I make my living.") with him to an honouring ceremony at his old school.

Harry also takes a friend along with him and his young son – well, he actually 'kidnaps' his son. And the whole journey, the whole act of going back to remember the past, brings back memories of stories he wrote, stories that are thinly veiled versions of actual events. One of the funniest is a story of a man who married his therapist. At first everything is great, the woman understands the man like no other woman in the world. But once they have a child she becomes "Jewish with a vengeance". No longer is she smart and funny and sexy; all of a sudden she's a dowdy nag who's rediscovered her religion. And in one hilarious moment she even prays before administering a blow-job. Again it's highly amusing, but again it has a point; Harry wants everything to remain perfect. He can't understand why people have to change. I mean, even having a child doesn't change him. He talks to his son about naming his penis. He may be getting on, but he's still really just a kid.

Harry's whole life philosophy is neatly summed up by his half-sister: "You have no values. With you it's all nihilism, cynicism, sarcasm and orgasm." To which Harry quips, "Hey, in France I could run for office with that slogan, and win!" But although Harry may be deemed to be juvenile, he's entirely correct about religion. He tells his devout sister that they're clubs and that their function is to exclude people. And then he asks her whether it bothers her more when a Jew gets killed or a gentile. She says a Jew death bothers her more – "They're my people." "They're all our people," he replies. I'm with Harry. Religions are nothing but divisive. Plus they encourage people to prove how devout they are – as if you can be more Jewish than someone else, or more Catholic etc. It all becomes a competition.

But amongst all this, the only thing that Harry can do to remain sane is to write. Somehow life doesn't make any sense but fiction does. I guess it's a problem most writers have. To able to write you have to observe, but the more you observe the less you understand why people behave the way they do. Plus the more you observe the more you actually remove yourself from life. However, self-examination does allow Harry to become more perceptive as regards himself. In fact, his characters help him out a lot, as they offer insights that he couldn't possibly come up with alone. So although the film's coarse, it ends up being quite optimistic. Salvation lies within.
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The culmination of Woody's comeback in the 1990's
JawsOfJosh22 February 2002
Wow! Who would have thought Woody Allen would have ever produced this kind of movie? Extending the returning winning streak of great films he began with in 1993 after spending the late 80's and early 90's mired in morose drama, "Deconstructing Harry" is both a swipe at his detractors as well as himself. This is NOT your average Woody Allen film. It is profane, obscene and vulgar in its content and dialogue. As the main character, Woody is unlikable, selfish and morally bankrupt. However, it boasts an all-star cast put to great use. There is a unique editing and narrative method employed, great one-liners, and it is executed with Woody's usual comfortable confidence. Overall, it is an absolutely hilarious journey.

Woody portrays Harry Block, an alcoholic, pill-popping, whore-frequenting writer whose thinly-veiled books that account the lives of his family & friends provide for successful stories but leave him at great odds with nearly everybody in his life. Harry soon learns that the college that once expelled him (for giving the Dean's wife an enema, it seems) is now honoring him for his literary contributions to the world. Harry brings along a sympathetic hooker, an ailing friend, and his son, whom he has half-heartedly kidnapped from school. Upon driving to the university, Harry begins to evaluate his life. Communicated in flashback, Harry reflects on the numerous relationships he's wrecked with his gluttonous ways and how he shamelessly incorporated those experiences into his novels, at the expense of others (the film showcases how these events happened in his own life, or how they appeared in the book - with different actors playing the fictional equivalents of his friends & relatives. It is a fantastic device, and Allen utilizes it to frenetic effect).

Only the truest of Woody Allen fans will recognize this as one of his best films. Supposed fanatics clamoring for the sophisticated insights of "Manhattan" and "Hannah & Her Sisters" may be disappointed here. This is Woody Allen in a raw, unpolished form (which may account for the jerky, quick-cut editing). This is a battle-weary Woody emerging from the wreck that was his personal life in the early 1990's to give a big middle finger to his interrogators. The stellar cast does wonders, especially Woody regulars Caroline Aaron and the always-hysterical Judy Davis. Billy Crystal serves up his usual dry humor in a dual role as Harry's best friend as well as his fictional vision of the devil ("You ever f**ked a blind girl? Ah, they're so grateful.") Allen does a great job of examining a man who is a failure at life but a success in his art. We'll never truly know how much of this is autobiographical, but it is a rare, fierce achievement for Woody Allen. Proceed with caution!
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The alienated artist revisited.
Doc-13416 March 1999
Woody Allen neve ceases to amaze me. I have seen pretty much all of his films now, and I must say that not one of them has disappointed me; "Deconstructing Harry" is no exception. In fact, this just may be his best since "The Purple Rose of Cairo", a film that is thematically quite similar. Both films work with the theme of illusion vs. reality. There is the recurring amusement park with the ferris wheel.

Anyway, despite the obvious Woody Allen elements, "Deconstructing Harry" marks a bit of a departure from his usual style. This film is much more vulgar, and bleak than many of his earlier achievements. However, this is not to say that it is not a funny film. Quite to the contrary, this film is hilarious, but I think you have to have the Woody Allen sense of humor to appreciate it.

Deconstructing Harry is about a writer, Harry Block who feels alienated and isolated in the real world. The only place that he can function is in the world of fiction, where he would prefer to spend most of his time. His real world is a mess. He has been to six psychiatrists; he's been married three times, he has an addiction to prostitutes; he's a pill popper and an alcoholic. In fact, Harry represents the way a great number of creative artists and achievers feel in the real world. They are so consumed by their creativity, that the only way they know how to function is in their world of fiction or art.

At the end of the film, Harry realizes that he is a "character who can't function in life, but only in art". This is so true, and we realize it throughout the entire film. This is emphasized by the chaotic nature of his real life experiences, that I will not give away. One of the greatest aspects of the film is the editing style. Allen adopts the use of a recurring jump cut in all of the reality scenes to illustrate Harry's confusion and inability to cope with life. In a scene where he is speaking with a therapist, jump cuts are used to show his interrupted thought processes. Even when his life is going fairly normal, which isn't too often, a jump cut is inserted to constantly remind us of his distorted, alienated life, a life where illusion seems to be his reality, or at least his preferred reality.
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Really funny, but also really bitter and full of apparent self-loathing
bob the moo31 January 2002
Harry Block is a writer who tends to thinly veil his won life in his art. His tendency to mock his friends and family through similar characters in his work has left him with three ex-wives and a huge number of people who hate him. He lives a lonely life and has a penchant for pills and whore (prostitution being pure and totally free of BS). When his college plans to honour him he finds he has no-one who wants to go with him, so he ‘kidnaps' his son, a black whore and an old friend with him. As the characters from his work come and go around him, he finds that he struggles to make amends with those around him and decides than he can only be happy in his work.

This is a fantastic Woody Allen film, and his only film to be rated 18 in the UK. The story seems to be a very clear, very personal attack on himself. It's like Allen is using a fictional story (going to be honoured by his college) to lay himself bare. Certainly Block's habit for using his own life in his work seems to echo accusations towards Allen in real life. At times this makes the film really hard to watch, some scenes are so full of apparent self-loathing and bile that it's hard to laugh. Happily the film is hilarious all the way through - this is not one of Allen's arty, serious films. It should be said that Allen denies that this is as personal as it appears but it is easy to see why it is seen as a personal attack on himself.

The film's main story is littered with scenes from Block's work that demonstrate how he has used his characters to mock others and to portray himself - Robin Williams is the best as the artist that literally lacks focus and Crystal is hellishly good. The story's moral about art and life is not as clear or as clever as it thinks it is, but it's very, very funny and the level of bile Allen appears to be spitting at himself is very interesting to observe.

Allen is great in the central role, but you do occasionally feel like you should look away at times because he appears to be giving himself a real kicking. The rest of the cast is really good and is full of famous faces ranging from big stars (Moore, Crystal, Alley, Williams) to familiar faces (Maguire, Bogosian, Louis-Dreyfus, Shue, Tucci). As a director Allen does some new tricks to make this feel even more different from his other films, but the jump cuts etc are a little tiresome. The most important character to me is Cookie. She is significant because Allen has not really ever created a good black character (even if she is a prostitute).

Overall this is a really funny film. The degree of vitriol that Allen appears to aim towards himself makes this a little less enjoyable but overall it is a great film.
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One of the best, and funniest, films of 1997
Quinoa198424 March 2000
Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry is arguably his best film in my opinion. True, there are his works in the 70's that are masterpieces, but this is definitely his best recent work. His script is one of his funniest, because this is a movie wham-packed with Jewish humor (which coming from Allen is a blessing).

The plot involves troubled writer Harry Block (played to the best of Allen acting) who along with writer's block, has trouble holding on to women, mentioning real life in his book, and meeting hookers who find the black hole to be their living.

It's not just him though, the other characters including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Judy Davis, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Caroline Aaron and many others bring this film to a high pitched comedy. And since, me being Jewish, I understood much of the humor and laughed through most of it. Great entertainment. A++
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Another Allen film that's grown on me
runamokprods6 July 2010
I recently re-watched this on DVD and was surprised to find I liked it much more than on seeing it in the theater on it's initial release. (Something that's happened to me with a number of more recent Woody Allen films).

I recalled it as misogynistic and self serving. While it still has moments of those qualities, it feels like Allen is toughest of all on himself. But is he tough enough? This is certainly the worst, most abrasive and selfish Allen has ever let himself look on screen, but there was still a feeling of pulling his self-aimed punches just a bit. Sort of an "All That Jazz" lite.

The film has a good number of very funny lines, and creative ideas (Robin Williams as an out- of-focus actor is a brilliant concept), and its fun to see a filmmaker Allen's age pushing his style limits, with jump cuts and multi-layered construction.

Still, it starts to repeat its own ideas after a while, both literally and thematically, and the ending feels a bit wimpy. While far from Allen's best, its still a dense, funny, thoughtful film, something increasingly rare in American cinema.
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Harry Block: "Six shrinks later, three wives down the line, and I still can't get my life together".
Galina_movie_fan23 July 2007
"Deconstructing Harry" (1996) is Woody Allen's angriest, busiest, most neurotic, most complex, most personal with the funniest one-liners film that effortlessly moves from past to present, from reality to the world of imagination, and from funny bits to contemplation on serious and personal subjects so rapidly that you have to watch closely in order not to get lost in all these worlds. Allen plays Harry Block, a famous writer suffering from the writer's block and also from inability to survive in real world, to be happy and to make the people in his life happy, "Six shrinks later, three wives down the line, and I still can't get my life together". Harry can't get his life together but he can write and he has put himself and all people he knows including his wives, friends, girl-friends, and his sister into his last novel. His art imitated life so closely that real people recognized themselves in the fictional characters very easily and now Harry lives through the nightmare of confronting near everybody he has ever known as well as the fictional characters, offended, infuriated, and insulted, who all rush in anger to face him: "You have no values. With you it's all nihilism, cynicism, sarcasm, and orgasm."

By its structure,"Deconstructing Harry" reminds the earlier film by one of Allen's favorite directors, Ingmar Bergman, "Wild Strawberries". As Professor Borg, Harry Block travels by car to upstate New York, where his college that expelled him as an undergraduate now wants to honor him as a world renowned belletrist. He travels by car with three unlikely companions, a hooker, a friend with bad heart, and his 9-years-old son whom he had kidnapped from school. As in "Wild Strawberries", Allen's film provides sincere, intelligent, and emotional contemplations of life's disappointment, regrets, and losses but at the same time, it is hilarious as only Allen's films can be. One of the best scenes of the film is Harry's descent on the elevator to air-conditioned Hell where in the ninth circle he meets the Devil who looks very much like Billy Crystal. Another wonderful scene concerns a married couple where after thirty years of happy uneventful marriage a wife learns some interesting eating habits from her husband's previous life. I can go on for long time. As often in the case of Allen's movies, with the modest running time of 96 minutes, "Deconstructing Harry" is expertly shot, boasts an amazing cast (Billy Crystal, Judy Davis, Bob Balaban, Elisabeth Shue, Demi Moore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobey Maguire, and Stanley Tucci just to name a few), and is in my opinion one of the most interesting and personal Allen's films.
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A great film from woody allen
PersianPlaya40815 January 2007
While suffering from writer's block and eagerly waiting to receive an award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling book come back to haunt him. This was a great Woody Allen film, for any fan of Allen, this film is a must. But personally, it wasn't among the very best Allen films in my eyes, and i rate Woody Allen very high (hes one of my top 5 directors), thats not to say this film is not good, i liked it a lot, but i have seen even better from Allen (purple rose of cairo, annie hall and more recently melinda & melinda or Celebrity). The performances are very good in this film, but its Allen's witty screenplay which makes it all work, and his directorial hand is also not bad here, keeping it interesting throughout. Robin Williams' performance is very good, he should do more work with Woody Allen--- IMDb Rating: 7.1, my rating: 9/10
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A true Woody Allen!
Travis_Bickle0114 August 2005
I'm going to be honest with you guys. I'm not his biggest fan, but I like his movies. I don't love them in a way I watch them over and over again but I do like them. Woody Allen managed to create his own style in such a way they don't fit in to any other particular genre. He has created his own genre.

This was only the second Woody Allen that I saw. I've seen "Husbands and Wives" as well. I liked "Deconstructing Harry", but I liked "Husbands and Wives" just a little bit more. How should I describe this movie? Like I already said, it's a true Woody Allen. That should say enough! The story is kind of a mess, more precisely it has a lot of subplots and many, many characters. There is a lot of talking as well in this movie, but hey, that's Woody Allen. What's also typical is that we are dealing with real characters, although that 'real' could be tending to what we would call in English 'head cases'.

Overall a good and enjoyable Woody Allen. Furthermore I'm really looking forward to seeing his magnus opus: "Annie Hall". Meanwhile this was a nice Woody Allen as well.

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It's more than a comedy
jamshidsaeedi2 September 2007
I think after Anie Hall it's the second masterpiece of Woody Allen .Allen showed that after years passed he is still fresh and full of new ideas.back and forth between real world and the fictional world really reminded the Anie Hall.the structure of the film is deconstructing and experimental:narrative form of the movie is suspended between past and present,full of flash back and forwards,fast rhythm and is a new form of storytelling that is nicely done in the movie.

The subject and the main story of the film is as the same as the other Allen's works:again we focus on an artist's life,his relations with women,meaning of God,love and then.but this time Woody Allen is on the top making a great combination of comedy and deep meanings.comedy that we see it at the fictional part of the movie and the tragic moments that we see them at the real part made a comedy that has something more than funny's a story about a writer that apparently is successful but when look at him deeply we see he has lots of failures in his personal fact the main idea of the film is:an artist only can live in his world of imaginations and not in the real world. the last sequence of the movie is a wonderful happy ending,encounter of despair and hope,an unusual happy ending that is smartly out of cliché.it's a scene in which we can understand the whole meaning of the film. as you know the film is conflicted with a lot of important subjects like the meaning of God,actual love,the meaning of guilt and death.these are very serious subjects that at the first sight look very indigestible for a comedy but the secret of success is the fact that beside the comic scenes,in depth all these serious subjects are answered.I think this deconstructing Harry is the best combination of comedy and deep meanings in a film.
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Woody Allen's best film since Annie Hall
The_Void31 January 2005
Woody Allen comedy is often cited to be an acquired taste - and it is. Albeit one that I've almost acquired. Though I still find Woody Allen's comedy to be rather hit and miss, I've somewhat come round to his way of thinking. Annie Hall is an out and out masterpiece, and judging by the eighteen Allen films I've seen; this one is the best since then. Deconstructing Harry is basically a cross between Annie Hall and Ingmar Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries', although Allen seems to have had his tongue firmly in cheek regarding that last influence. The story follows Harry (Allen); a writer that is suffering with writers block. Harry has seen fit, therefore, to base his short stories on friends and relatives, much to their dismay. Harry has been honoured by the college that expelled him (Wild Strawberries), and he now also has to deal with all the people he has upset by his writing, leading us into a life-affirming piece of cinema for Woody Allen.

Like most of Allen's oeuvre, this one is very personal. Allen made this film at a time when he was in the papers every day for various allegations, and at times it almost feels like Woody has been backed into a corner and he's trying desperately to get out of it. In this movie, Allen builds up a three dimensional portrait of his character though various events in the movie, which are intertwined with short stories that he has made up. The short stories themselves are generally imaginative and many would make a great movie in themselves (the one with Tobey Maguire being a particular highlight). The way that Allen combines these two elements of story telling is really skillful, and despite the huge area for cocking up; Allen doesn't fall into it, and the story flows smoothly throughout. The film features much of Allen's trademark witty dialogue, with some of the exchanges being truly memorable and absurdly funny. Deconstructing Harry is Allen at his neurotic, self-styled best and I rate it as his best since Annie Hall.
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Self-flagellation as art, but it's funny
SKG-218 February 1999
I read one critic that said in this film, Allen was taking everything bad anyone had ever written about him and put it into this movie, and that's not far off the mark. This is, in essence, STARDUST MEMORIES redux, and since that is by far my least favorite Allen film, I was hesitant towards this film. In addition to the whiny tone of that film (Oh, I'm so successful, I have women throwing themselves at me, my life is so empty!), we get the self-flagellation of this film (not only is my life so empty, I'm such a bastard!). What makes it watchable are three things; firstly, Allen at least seems to recognize the hypocrisy of whining, secondly, the film seamlessly weaves between fantasy and reality, between real life and fiction, and finally, it's often very funny. It also contains the best work either Billy Crystal or Demi Moore have done in a while. Not vintage Allen, but it'll make you laugh. Just don't fall into the trap of thinking it has something "important" to say.
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Outline for a Masterpiece
bababear1 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In a universe where things ran properly, Woody Allen would go back and remake DECONSTRUCTING HARRY and have a chance to set right the things that went wrong with it, and emphasize its many strong points.

Unlike his later Hollywood ENDING, which was a total disaster, and ANYTHING ELSE, which was only slightly better, this film has a lot of intelligent things to say. As a bonus, it includes a small army of actresses- Caroline Aaron, Kirstie Alley, Judy Davis, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Julie Kavner, Demi Moore, Elizabeth Shue- who should be superstars and working all the time, but Hollywood just doesn't utilize them enough.

Unfortunately, the film hits an awful lot of false notes. The editing is often jumpy, cutting forward in the middle of a sentence. Maybe this is supposed to duplicate a bored viewer using the fast forward on the remote. While I'm certainly not a prude, I found the constant profanity irritating. Cole Porter was right: Writers who once knew much better words/Now only use four letter words/Writing prose:/Anything goes.

Allen may think that he's being hip and with it using this language. Unfortunately, he sounds like a senior citizen using affected speech. There are plenty of hacks writing direct to video teen comedies who can use these words.

Worse yet, in this film Allen finally includes two non-white characters. One is Asian, the other Black. Sadly, they're both prostitutes.

Woody was 62 when this came out. He surrounds himself with young, beautiful women. Hey, the guy's only going through life once. Give him a break.
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Mixed Feelings...
nickcluxton7 July 2013
I have been looking forward to seeing this film for quite a while, and when I finally had a chance I was pretty quick to take it up. As I started it, I regretted it immediately, I was bored and annoyed. Towards the end, it began to grow on me, but a lot just didn't do it for me.

What I liked: I absolutely love the concept and the story. I have not seen any like it. What I like most is that while there is an actual plot and external events, it's more of a character study. They take an unlikable character and give him plenty of depth and sympathy to make up for his brash decisions and opinions. I love Woody Allen as a writer. I also liked the short stories; how they were narrated, the actual relevance they had to Harry's problems and friends, and how they were somewhat diverse. It wasn't just about the message. I both liked and disliked the scenes where they would cut to the same shot. It is very reminiscent of Jean- Loc Goddard's Breathless, which at times gave it a very relaxed, more realistic feel, considering that you could interpret that there were probably moments of silence between conversation, like something that happens in real conversation. However, when you cut in mid-sentence or make too many quick cuts, it's distracting and annoying to try and listen.

What I hated: While I love that film is about Harry Block, I hated him. His guts, his obsession with sex, and the fact that he is so damn awkward. I hate Woody Allen as an actor. I appreciate when people stutter, pause, mix up words, or ramble in movies because that's what people do in real life. However, Woody Allen takes it and makes it absolutely obnoxious. His arms flail around, he never makes eye contact (or keeps his eyes on the road while driving).

Overall, the word I would use to describe this movie is 'inconsistent,' with some scene being very funny and entertaining, while others made me want to scratch my DVD apart.
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Still better than most Hollywood garbage
jackferwerda8 February 2005
I saw this movie a view times. I would agree that this is not the best of his movies. However, it is still superior to most Hollywood garbage. The kind of honest writing that this movie has that seems down to earth and not full of cheap tactics to grab the audience's attention is an example of why I still love Woody Allen movies. I have very few complaints about his work although my favorite films are definitely over 10 to 15 years old. I would still recommend it to Woody Allen fans.

The film making is thought provoking. the film's characters' life is hectic, disorganized and falling apart at the seams, Meanwhile his creative works are organized and stable. If you watch closely you will notice that the camera work is jumpy, chaotic and unstable during the scenes that depict his personal life. The camera work in The scenes that are depicting the stories written by the main character are steady, organized and calm. I thought it was still pretty rare to find something this thoughtful in a movie.

I think that Allen may be getting progressively self-indulgent. I think it is a little painful to see him pairing himself with gorgeous blonds and other young model types ("curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Hollywood ending" are great examples). For the simple reason that one of his best qualities in his comedy was his self-deprecating style that seemed to differentiate himself from the run of the mill "movie star films". This being said, this movie is not a good example of his increasing self-indulgence.

It actually shows Woody loose the girl to a younger (Crystal who really isn't that young) more hip man-of-the-world. In this film, you see the character having to face reality, which pains him because he can only functionally exist in a world of fantasy. This is interesting content.

Part of the problem is there are such great expectations with such an all star cast (Williams and Crystal for example). I would say this is far from his ground-breaking work. The jokes aren't that hilarious and the acting is just "OK" ,with the exception of the more relaxed/sincere scenes with Bob Balaban. It is still 10 times more intelligent than the average movie. Movies that has to use buckets of blood and flashes of naked bodies just to keep you awake.

I would not recommend this movie for anyone with a short attention span. In fact I wouldn't recommend this film unless you have seen Woody's earlier films first (like Bananas, Annie Hall etc). However, I am a fan of Woody's writing and film making and I still enjoyed it quite a bit.
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