If Annie Hall was Woody Allen's autobiographical masterpiece inspired by his relationship with Diane Keaton, then this was his one inspired by his relationship with Mia Farrow and her family. How much it's fascinating to guess - which of Mia Farrow's sisters was the role model for Barbara Hershey? For Diane Wiest? Her real life mother plays her on screen mother - John Farrow died before Woody met Mia, but I'm sure there were plenty of Lloyd Nolan types around.
He can poo-poo it all he wants but the similarities to real life are so clear: Mia Farrow is the brilliant star of the family, the nurturer and mother of many children (some played by her real life kids - Soo-Yi pops up in some scenes), center of family activities, financially well off, married to a spectacle-wearing adulterer (Michael Caine), a successful actress, a bit of a whiner. There are the crazy sisters - sexy, recovering alcoholic Hershey and flightly Wiest, neither of whom are capable of holding down a job and seem reliant on their men and Farrow/Hannah to pay the rent.
There are three versions of the Woody persona - one played by Woody himself, the hypochondriac looking for the meaning of life; Michael Caine, who lusts after his wife's sister; and Max Von Sydow, the tormented artist determined to educate his lover, and a bad tempered person.
There's also a galaxy of supporting people, many of whom are types familiar from other Allen movies (he was already starting to repeat himself): the old friend played by Tony Roberts who became successful in Los Angeles; the pretentious arty types; the bit players.
It's just got so many wonderful moments and is so brilliant: Daniel Stern's cameo as a rock star who likes "big" art; Von Sydow's genuinely touching moment of despair when he's lost Hershey; the quality of the voice over (several characters do it); the fat jogger running past Allen; Allen/Mickey's story how he came to enjoy life; Allen and Wiest's disastrous date; O'Sullivan and Nolan's bitter argument; spotting people like J T Walsh and John Turturro in the cast; Sam Waterson's womanising architect talking about going to the opera and crying. I did feel sorry for the black maid who popped in and out of scenes, it was so demeaning.
It's such a heartwarming life affirming movie too - not many Allen films have a big heart but this one does. I love the ending. It's great.