By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Winner of the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall has not only had a profound impact on pop culture, but has also inspired filmmakers of many generations that have followed it. During the late 1990s, Allen’s iconic film inspired writers Randy Mack, Zach Ordynans and director Van Flesher to make a more modern version of a failed relationship story. Burning Annie not only tells a story inspired by Annie Hall, but even acknowledges its inspiration through its story and main character. The result is a sweet and funny romantic comedy that honors Woody Allen’s film, and has a fresh and creative wit of its own. It is also a movie made with Allen’s blessing.
The year is 1997; college student Max (Gary Lundy) just can’t seem to have a successful love life and sometimes wonders if it is something at all worth pursuing. Max’s negative attitude towards romance and relationships comes from his obsession with the movie Annie Hall. Because his father is a huge fan of Woody Allen, Max grew up watching Allen’s movies, but Annie Hall has always been the film that Max seems to both love and hate. After Max’s buddy Charles (Brian Klugman) suggests that Annie Hall has cursed Max’s love life, he decides to avoid the movie at all costs. Things get rather confusing for Max when he meets the exciting and free-spirited Julie (Sara Downing), a woman with whom Max instantly becomes smitten and who reminds him of the Annie Hall character. Their whirlwind romance instills hope within Max about love and relationships, but as the film Annie Hall suggests, some romances are not meant to last.
Though obviously not as iconic or brilliant as the film that inspired it, Burning Annie makes for a delightful, modern companion piece to Annie Hall. The writing by Mack and Ordynans is sharp and witty in the comedy department, and is sweet and poignant in the more romantic moments. Not only are the lead characters superbly developed, but the film also features an assortment of lovable and amusing supporting characters. The cast members all offer exceptional performances.
As Max, Gary Lundy is absolutely perfect as the somewhat neurotic, often morose, unlucky-in-love lead character. Much like Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, Max often breaks the fourth wall offering the audience narration of his problems, situations, and the overall plight of his romantic life. Sara Downing also performs well as Max’s love interest Julie. Much like Annie, Julie is a flighty free spirit, but seems to be a bit more confident with a more rebellious, punk rock attitude. Kim Murphy delivers a lovely performance as Max’s sweet friend Beth. The movie also features great performances by Brian Klugman, Jay Paulson, Todd Duffey, Rini Bell, and Jason Risner who all portray Max’s college friends.
This independent film has had its share of ups and downs during its production and distribution. It played at a handful of film festivals between 2003 and 2004 and had a limited theatrical release and subsequent DVD release in 2007. The movie is now getting a second chance to reach more audiences with an HD release through multiple streaming platforms. It is a movie that I highly recommend for fans of Annie Hall. As for those who haven’t watched the classic film, please watch that first, as it enriches the experience of this endearing and enjoyable movie.
Burning Annie is available on various HD platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Vudu) starting on Monday, May 15, 2017.