For me, the college era Burning Annie is awfully familiar and relatable to my good ole days at university. Much like main character Max, I too was (and still am) a movie obsessed wise ass, not yet capable of a proper relationship with the opposite sex. “Proper” might be too strong of a descriptor, but here it fits into the fabric of the film, being about romantic expectations, behavior and how things are “supposed” to be and, more importantly, how things are supposed to end. After all, you have to graduate or just leave at some point, right? Max and I would just be happy rewatching the same video tape over and over, but even that would show wear and tear. Even that would have an expiration.
In this feature, Woody Allen’s classic out of love story Annie Hall is used as the central philosophy, jumping off point and fundamental core of Max’s self reflection, character growth and overall being. Burning Annie very much is a dissection and reworking of the arcs and lessons of Annie Hall, clever and introspective. It’s surprising, observing the similarities and differences between Max and Woody’s respective schticks and tribulations, the beats they hit and the ones they miss.
“…Max certainly misunderstands the ending to his favorite film.”
What Max has over Woody is age; being able to learn early enough for long enough. What Woody has over Max is a more articulate and much sharper wit (It’s scary how well Gary Lundy plays Max as the timid but outwardly confident smart nick, but most of his jokes land quite awkwardly – though this may be on purpose). But what they both share equally is an inability to know when to shut up and how best to filter their words. When it comes to the important moments in life, they can only look back and complain with sarcasm and self deprecation. Such a sad way to live, really.
Never bring up Manhattan to Max. No, it’s not that whole dating an underage girl thing he has a problem with, but the uplifting attitude of that film’s resolution. Annie Hall is almost the kind of movie that Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation would be trying to write, struggling with the concept of nothing learned and nothing concluded. Max finds comfort in this, not because it represents an opportunity to learn again and again, but because he thinks it doesn’t and never will. As much of a specific cinephile he may be, Max certainly misunderstands the ending to his favorite film.
“Through one week in his life, Max is given the wake up call he sorely needs…”
Through one week in his life, Max is given the wake up call he sorely needs. Two young women, one movie that haunts him. Burning Annie isn’t just about journeying towards maturity – it’s an acceptance and clearer translation of Annie Hall’s ending. In this way, the movie is near critic proof, with as much the heart of an analytical essay as it has the mind of a sweetly drawn romantic comedy. Vulnerable and open to possibility, Burning Annie is wise beyond its late 90s set years.
When the sounds of Nick Cave hit Max’s mind the morning after a particularly good date, I smiled. This Zero Effect memory gave me the wonderful juxtaposition of insightful music meeting a misinterpreted one night stand. Max isn’t being looked down upon in this moment, but someone is certainly laughing at him, knowing that this thing he thinks he has won’t last. Similarly, a final shot of Burning Annie finds that this laughter has stopped for good, and the music meeting the image has matched up in harmony. Such ingenuity is refreshing. Such maturity is impressive.
Burning Annie (2007, 2017 re-release): Director Van Flesher / Writers Randy Mack, Zack Ordynans / Stars Gary Lundy, Sara Downing, Kim Murphy, Brian Klugman
4 out of 5