By Megan Bianco
For a decade from 2004-2014, if someone were to ask me who my favorite filmmaker was, I’d instantly answer Woody Allen. More often than not, the average person would respond with something along the lines of “oh, didn’t he marry his stepdaughter?” But that didn’t faze me.
Annie Hall (1977), Love and Death (1975), Play It Again, Sam (1972) and Everyone Says I Love You (1996) were just a few of my all-time favorite movies he directed. When I was 14, I watched Annie Hall for the first time and it completely connected with me on so many levels. It was the first time I’d considered the process and art of filmmaking behind the scenes and not just entertainment. And Woody and Diane Keaton were the first time I’d seen celebrities be just as neurotic as I was growing up. I’ve had anxiety for almost all my life and used to get panic attacks regularly as a kid, but I didn’t really know anyone else who went through that sort of thing and didn’t know how to talk about it.
Seeing Woody and Diane, on screen and in real life, embrace their awkwardness became a whole new perspective on my feelings. It was not only common to have anxiety, but you could be considered cool even while dealing with it. Diane turned into my new celeb idol and Woody my new celeb crush. He’s not exactly conventionally attractive, but his sense of humor, intellectualism, nebbishness and lack of composure got to me. It was relatable and fascinating. So for the rest of high school, I watched all his movies, read everything about him (and Diane), and dressed like Annie Hall. In my mind, young Woody was boyfriend material and the standard I set for myself with future relationships.
Then I discovered his relationship with Mia Farrow and Soon-yi Previn. For years I could just push the dysfunctional strangeness aside since technically everything was legal (though pretty douchey on Woody’s part). In my head, I constantly wished he could’ve just made it work out between him and Diane or his second wife Louise Lasser, but I had already accepted that he was a weirdo who married his ex’s adopted daughter. I also knew Mia accused him of molesting their own adopted daughter, Dylan. But there was originally so little information online and the trial so short, that I pretty much told myself Mia made it up to get back at him. To be honest, I’ve never actually particularly cared for Mia after discovering the backstories to her relationships with Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn, as well as originally throwing Soon-yi under the bus when she discovered Woody’s affair with her.
But when Dylan brought the allegations back to life two years ago, it killed me. And Woody actually responded with more denial. I couldn’t take it. My hero was just as flawed and awful as everyone had been saying, and I couldn’t defend him anymore. I didn’t want to believe he’s that horrible, but at this point it’s pretty much useless. Since the breakthrough of social media, regular commentary of first-hand experience of being with Woody for 13 years has come from Mia, Dylan and Ronan Farrow continually.
The latest revelation was Ronan’s article for The Hollywood Reporter guilt tripping actors for still working with him after Allen’s Café Society was received decently at the Cannes Film Festival a couple weeks ago. I felt uncomfortable and foolish for being naive enough to think he really was the geeky, energetic, funny persona he had been in the ‘70s. Anyone who’s watched an interview with Woody from the past ten years can see he’s become cynical and pessimistic. Anyone’s who’s ever read or seen him talk about Soon-yi can feel the awkwardness. On top of that, his movies are even more hit or miss than they’ve ever been. Magic in the Moonlight (2014) and Irrational Man (2015) were so embarrassing and droll that I even wished he’d retire.
Of course, his family, friends and close collaborators have spoken out for him just as much as the Farrows have scorned him. Mariel Hemingway, Stacey Nelkin and Nancy Jo Sales have shared their experiences with him as teenagers in the late ‘70s. Hemingway admitted Allen made a pass at her the same year they played a couple in Manhattan (1979); Nelkin has gone into detail a number of different times on how enlightening having a much older boyfriend was when she was in high school; and Sales has memories of being a pen pal of his when she was 13. All questionable behavior from a successful man in his 40s. Even so, the three women still vouch for him, Hemingway even reuniting with him two decades later with Deconstructing Harry (1997). His more age-appropriate exes Harlene Rosen, Lasser and Keaton also have nothing but good things to say about him.
But at the end of the day, it’s irresponsible to ignore or brush off Dylan’s claims. The more I read about her, the more I feel I’m lying to myself. Being a fan doesn’t trump someone’s possible sexual abuse. That would send a terrible message. Even after a full year of ignoring him and his movies from disgust and shame back in 2014, I didn’t throw away my collection of his films. And I don’t think I will—though I haven’t bought a DVD/Blu-ray of his in years. Annie Hall is still my favorite movie, Love and Death is still the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. I’ll continue to watch his new movies as I still review films as a job. But I won’t defend him and I don’t think I can ever look at him again the way I did when I was younger.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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