Friday, July 05, 2013
Written, directed, and narrated by Woody Allen, Radio Days is about the life of an American family during the Golden Age of Radio where a man recalls his childhood during the late 1930s. The film explores the world of nostalgia and childhood innocence as it plays to a period in time when people gathered to find an escape from their dreary lives. Also starring Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Seth Green, Michael Tucker, Tony Roberts, Julie Kavner, Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, and a special appearance from Diane Keaton. Radio Days is a ravishing yet heartfelt film from Woody Allen.
The film is about a man named Joe recalling his life as a child (Seth Green) in the late 1930s and early 1940s during the Golden Age of Radio. Notably as he thinks about a time when families gathered to listen to the radio for different programs as he was one of those families living in Rockaway Beach in New Jersey with his parents (Michael Tucker and Julie Kavner) and relatives including his aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest). During these years, young Joe would go through many moments in his life impacted by the radio including the attacks on Pearl Harbor and all sorts of things while the older Joe would also talk about the tumultuous life of a woman named Sally White (Mia Farrow) who would eventually become a star in the radio.
Woody Allen’s screenplay is told in a reflective manner as he does the voice of the older Joe as a man who is fascinated by that period when he was a kid. Notably as he recalls the many different programs the people in his family listen to whether it’s sports, soap operas, or comedies that they listen to while Joe’s favorite program is the Masked Avenger. Allen moves the narrative back-and-forth from Joe’s childhood adventures to the story of Sally White as she goes from working at a nightclub to becoming a radio star in the span of a few years. Both narratives would play into major developments where Joe would deal with a lot of the changes in his life as would Sally who starts off as this dim-witted woman into an actress of the radio.
Allen’s direction definitely recalls some of the visual ideas but also the sensibility of Federico Fellini. Notably in capturing the idea of nostalgia and the innocence of youth as it is told from the perspective of a man thinking about a special moment in time. A lot of contains moments of great humor including a scene where young Joe and some friends try to look for Nazi planes and U-boats only to get a glimpse at a naked woman. There’s also moments where there’s some suspense but also in a comical moment involving Sally and a mob hitman (Danny Aiello) where she witnesses a murder as she pleas to not kill her where a lot of sweet moments happen. There’s also a sequence involving a moment of tragedy through the radio where it would play into an entire family coming together despite all of their dysfunctional aspects.
It all plays to something that Allen wanted to recapture in that period where people gathered to listen to something and talk about with friends and family. Especially in a period where technology was primitive and wasn’t as distracting. There’s a sadness that is prevalent in Allen’s narration over the fact that everything he’s telling are based on what his character remembers as it plays into that moment that will never be replicated. Even in scenes set in New York City where it is grand and full of life that carries a similarity to the moment Joe’s family are in this little house as they’re also having fun. Overall, Allen creates a very majestic and exhilarating film about nostalgia and the innocence of childhood.
Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma does fantastic work with the film‘s gorgeous cinematography from many of the colorless yet vibrant cinematography of the New Jersey exteriors to more exquisite lighting schemes for some of the posh interior settings. Editor Susan E. Morse does brilliant work with the editing to find ways to help the narrative move back and forth while using some rhythmic cuts to play out its humor. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with art director Speed Hopkins and set decorators Carol Joffe, Leslie Bloom, and George DeTitta Jr., does fabulous work with the set pieces from the cramped intimacy of Joe’s home as well as the look of Rockaway Beach, New Jersey to some scenes in New York City including the nightclub rooftop.
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does excellent work with the costumes to create that period in time from the fashionable clothes that Bea wears to the many different dresses that Sally wears. Sound editor Robert Hein does terrific work with the sound to create layers of mixing for the way the radio sounds from its soundstage to the people listening to it. Music supervisor Dick Hyman creates a very dazzling soundtrack that features a lot of the music of the times from Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and many others.
The casting by Juliet Taylor is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from William H. Macy as a radio actor, Todd Field as a crooner, Don Pardo and Tony Roberts as radio hosts, Wallace Shawn as the voice of the Masked Avenger, Kenneth Mars as Joe’s rabbi, Larry David as a Communist neighbor, Jeff Daniels as revered radio actor Biff Baxter, Danny Aiello as mob hitman Rocco, Sydney Blake as the naked woman Joe and his friends saw, and Diane Keaton as the New Year’s Eve singer in the film’s final moments. Other notable performances include Zero Mostel as Joe’s uncle Abe, Renee Lipin as his aunt Ceil, Leah Carey and William Magerman as Joe’s grandparents, and Dianne Wiest in a wonderful performance as the dreamy Aunt Bea who is always searching for love.
Michael Tucker and Julie Kavner are great as Joe’s parents as a couple who often bicker towards each other as they also love each other no matter how much they get on each other’s nerves. Seth Green is excellent as the young Joe as a kid who is amazed by his surroundings as Green brings a sense of charm and energy to his role. Finally, there’s Mia Farrow in a remarkable performance as Sally White as an aspiring actress who starts at the bottom being a mistress for a radio star to finally becoming one as Farrow brings a lot of humor and strange voice accents to her character.
Radio Days is a magnificent film from Woody Allen. Armed with a great cast and an engaging yet touching theme on nostalgia, it is a film that is definitely one of Allen’s most entertaining and heartfelt films. Notably as it showcases a place in time where the radio brought people together. In the end, Radio Days is a triumphant film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money & Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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