1978 drama film by Woody Allen
Interiors is a 1978 drama film written and directed by Woody Allen. Featured performers are Kristin Griffith, Mary Beth Hurt, Richard Jordan, Diane Keaton, E. G. Marshall, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton and Sam Waterston.
Page received a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. The film received four other Oscar nominations, two for Allen’s screenplay and direction, one for Stapleton as Best Actress in a Supporting Role and another for Mel Bourne and Daniel Robert for their art direction and set decoration. It is Allen’s first fully-fledged film in the drama genre.
The film centers on the three children of the narcissistic Arthur (E. G. Marshall), a corporate attorney, and Eve (Geraldine Page), an interior decorator. Renata (Diane Keaton) is a poet whose husband Frederick, a struggling writer, feels eclipsed by her success. Flyn (Kristin Griffith) is a vain actress who is away most of the time filming; the low quality of her films is an object of ridicule behind her back. Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), who is in a relationship with Mike (Sam Waterston), cannot settle on a career, and resents her mother for favoring Renata, while Renata resents their father’s concern over Joey’s lack of direction.
One morning, Arthur unexpectedly announces that he wants a separation from his wife and would like to live alone. Eve, who is clinically depressed, attempts suicide. The shock of these two events causes a rift among the sisters. Arthur returns from a trip to Greece with Pearl (Maureen Stapleton), a high-spirited and more “normal” woman, whom he intends to marry. His daughters are disturbed that Arthur would disregard Eve’s suicide attempt and find another woman, to whom Joey refers as a “vulgarian”.
Arthur and Pearl marry at Arthur and Eve’s former summer home, with Renata, Joey and Flyn in attendance. Later in the evening, Joey lashes out at Pearl when Pearl accidentally breaks one of Eve’s vases. In the middle of the night, Frederick drunkenly attempts to rape Flyn. Meanwhile, Joey finds Eve in the house, and sadly explains how much she has given up for her mother, and how disdainfully she is treated. Eve walks out onto the beach and into the surf. Joey attempts unsuccessfully to save Eve, but almost herself drowns in the attempt. She in turn is rescued by Mike and pulled to shore where Pearl resuscitates her with artificial respiration.
The film ends with the family silently attending Eve’s funeral, each placing a single white rose, Eve’s favorite flower and a symbol of hope to her, on Eve’s wooden, perfectly polished coffin.
Interiors grossed $10.43 million in the United States.
On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 79% based on reviews from 14 critics, with an average score of 6.86/10. On Metacritic the film has a score of 67 based on reviews from 9 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film “beautiful” and complimented Gordon Willis on his “use of cool colors that suggest civilization’s precarious control of natural forces”, but noted:
My problem with Interiors is that although I admire the performances and isolated moments, […] I haven’t any real idea what the film is up to. It’s almost as if Mr. Allen had set out to make someone else’s movie, say a film in the manner of Mr. Bergman, without having any grasp of the material, or first-hand, gut feelings about the characters. They seem like other people’s characters, known only through other people’s art.
Richard Schickel of Time wrote that the film’s “desperate sobriety … robs it of energy and passion”; Allen’s “style is Bergmanesque, but his material is Mankiewiczian, and the discontinuity is fatal. Doubtless this was a necessary movie for Allen, but it is both unnecessary and a minor embarrassment for his well-wishers.”
Roger Ebert gave the film four stars and praised it highly, saying, “Here we have a Woody Allen film, and we’re talking about O’Neill and Bergman and traditions and influences? Yes, and correctly. Allen, whose comedies have been among the cheerful tonics of recent years, is astonishingly assured in his first drama.”
Gene Siskel awarded three stars out of four and wrote:
I thought the unremitting pain of the first half of the film was almost laughable, as if Allen had made a bad Bergman film. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, in which the film’s only bright, lively character (Maureen Stapleton as the father’s new, romantic interest) makes her entrance. At the end, I left the theater thinking that the picture was painful and didn’t have much applicability to my life, but that I would always remember its characters more for the superb acting than for Allen’s script.
Charles Champlin called the film “somber, intense and stunning,” concluding, “Like Cries and Whispers, Allen’s Interiors is, for all the somberness of the material, in the end an affirmation of life and a transcendent piece of art. The film lovers will love it if joke-seekers do not.
Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker wrote: “This droll piece of work is [Allen’s] most majestic so far. The theme its characters express is very Chekhovian. It is pinned to the idea that the hardest, and most admirable thing to do is to act properly through a whole life.”
In 2016, Interiors was listed as Allen’s 11th finest film in an article by The Daily Telegraph critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey, who wrote that “the emotional effort being expended is cumulatively hard to shrug off” and praised Stapleton’s performance.
Woody Allen’s response
Allen’s own fears about the film’s reception are recounted in a biography of Allen by Eric Lax, where he quotes Ralph Rosenblum, the film’s editor:
He [Allen] managed to rescue Interiors, much to his credit. He was against the wall. I think he was afraid. He was testy, he was slightly short-tempered. He was fearful. He thought he had a real bomb. But he managed to pull it out with his own work. The day the reviews came out, he said to me, ‘Well, we pulled this one out by the short hairs, didn’t we?’
Later, while watching the film with an acquaintance, Allen reportedly said “It’s always been my fear. I think I’m writing Long Day’s Journey into Night and it turns into Edge of Night.”
Looking back on the film in 1982, Allen said:
I should have brought Pearl, Maureen Stapleton’s character, in earlier. I thought the audience would be entertained before the nub of conflict emerged. I thought that it was entertaining enough before Pearl entered, but it wasn’t. It should have been. I should have started it with Pearl coming in right away and the whole thing would have flowered right from the start.
The plot and characters of Interiors are alluded to in Death Cab for Cutie’s “Death of an Interior Decorator”.
- “Interiors (1978)”. Box Office Mojo.
- “Interiors: Awards”. The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2008.
- Interiors at Rotten Tomatoes
- “Interiors”. Metacritic.
- Canby, Vincent (August 6, 1978). “Woody Allen: Risking It Without Laughs”. The New York Times. p. D1.
- Schickel, Richard (August 1978). “Darkest Woody”. Time.
- Ebert, Roger (August 2, 1978). “Interiors – Movie Review & Film Summary (1978)”. RogerEbert.com.
- Siskel, Gene (September 22, 1978). “Allen’s ‘Interiors’: A touch of Bergman plus fine acting”. Chicago Tribune. Section 4, p. 3.
- Champlin, Charles (August 27, 1978). “Woody Allen Drops the Mask”. Los Angeles Times. Calendar, pp. 1, 32.
- Gilliatt, Penelope (August 7, 1978). “The Current Cinema”. The New Yorker. p. 78.
- Collin, Robbie; Robey, Tim (October 12, 2016). “All 47 Woody Allen movies – ranked from worst to best”. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
- Lax, Eric (1991). Woody Allen: A Biography. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 335. ISBN 0-394-58349-3.
- Arnold, Gary (July 16, 1982). “Woody Allen, Inside and Out”. The Washington Post. pp. C1–2.
- “Death Cab for Cutie – Death of an Interior Decorator”. genius.com. Retrieved July 4, 2018.