My companions for the evening seemed far more tolerant of this Hamlet-lite wimp than I am. In every manifestation--and he is rarely absent from the Woody Allen film--he never fails to infuriate me. It's a character stuck in the existentialist fifties, an attempt to compensate for a philosophical nihilism with merciless self-absorption and endless trite mock-psychiatric analysis. The whine says it all. It never stops. You sit there wondering why the rest of the characters don't slap him hard across the face--and wanting nothing better than to do it yourself.
And the rest of the characters are either despicable--in this case, the fiancee and her parents, whose values represent the worst of self-indulgent American materialism--or rosy innocent and sweet. Except, of course, in this film, where the maestros from the past are neatly caricatured in cameo roles--though all of them have to share in the neuroses Allen seems to attribute to the entire human species. The result is some truly hilarious moments, as when Hemingway sits moodily in a bistro lecturing our hero on the essence of manly courage--a quality in which this pathetic Woody clone is demonstrably and notably lacking.
Is this dreadful character a necessary ingredient? The impotent, self-doubting intellectual who constantly questions his own manhood and disputes any meaning in life beyond the generally losing battle for sexual gratification. Clearly, he's an unabashed projection of a less than admirable part of the director's persona, and a role that he himself has played in many of his films. The fact that I dislike him so intensely likely has something to say about myself that I am loath to recognize. I should probably examine it--but somewhere one has to draw the line!