Wedged between what I consider Allen’s two best films – Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) – Interiors shines as a drama break between the two comedies with a perfect ensemble cast and a uniquely cold atmosphere. It’s a wee bit overbearing at times with it’s dramatic conflict, but the strong acting always ties it down from getting too over the top. The film is about a mentally unstable mother (played by Geraldine Page), her separated husband (E.G. Marshall), and her three grown but troubled daughters (Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffiths) over a course of a few years. At first, her husband wanted a trial separation, but later he meets another woman and tries to get his wife to finalize a divorce. This pushes her to the brink of her insanity and leads the daughters to deal with the consequences. It’s a fascinating portrait of a already broken family pushed farther and the naturalistic performances by the ensemble are all fantastic.The matriarch Eve, played by Geraldine Page, is sensational as the mother who’s falling apart – she’s a regular ice queen who, in turns, struggles to hold herself together and tries to navigate her husband back to her again. But she doesn’t change much. Can people change when they are older? Woody thinks not – I share that belief. Neither do his daughter characters Renata and Joey, who in turn say he’s coming back and he’s not coming back.
As Joey, Mary Beth Hurt gives a masterful performance as the daughter who seems the most negative about her mother’s chances with getting back with her husband, but is at heart, jealous for her mother’s attention. It’s a complex role that contains neuroses with a monotonic, disconnected voice. But she can’t be more of the opposite. The final scene between her and the mother is absolutely heartbreaking. Her mother can’t love her and she’s forced to forgive her for that. Diane Keaton, as Renata, is given the typical showy role as the daughter with marital and pscyho-artistic problems. It’s here that Woody dips into his themes of infidelity and creative struggle that he has going through all of his films. Nevertheless, Keaton gives a wonderful performance as a woman who is also falling apart, if less so than her sister Joey and her mother. Last of the sisters is Flynn, who’s rarely seen onscreen. She’s a beautiful and very vapid actress who’s the most disconnected and ignorant of the daughters. She’s the youngest one who doesn’t care to know what’s happening with her father and mother. Kristin Griffiths gives a alright performance – it never ascends to great as Keaton and Page or masterful as Hurt. Maureen Stapleton, who, other than Page, got nominated for a Academy Award for her work, turns in a fine, if uneventful, performance as the other woman that Arthur (Eve’s husband) wants to divorce Eve for. E.G. Marshall has some wonderful subtly. He’s a character who has his own reasons as to why he wants to break it off with Eve that are very understandable, but still cruel.
Interiors is a complex film. There are so many layers to it that a second viewing is absolutely necessary. It is indeed a cold film as many critics have said of it before. You can tell by the sterile art direction and moody yet minimalistic cinematography that the world these characters inhabit in reflect the mental state of the matriarch character, Eve. These daughters are constantly at odds, trying to break free from their mother’s grip on them, while also trying to make her normal and/or happy. Woody came to his own with this film. There are few flaws throughout – the initial nervous breakdown that Eve suffered through when the daughters were young is never fully explored, just mentioned in a passing way and the infidelity subplot with Renata’s husband feels awkwardly forced to give Flynn some more dimension – but overall, Woody creates a believable world with wonderful ease. With more thought and perhaps a revisit, I could easily see this become one of my favorite Woody Allen films ever made. A-