It's safe to say that Eve (Geraldine Page) has had her problems for quite a while now, and in bringing up her three daughters she has transferred her narrow view of the world onto them. Especially Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) who loved her mother more than any of her siblings, but is unable to admit that her flaws have become part of her character, their tendency towards criticism in both art and life being most obvious. But then, the other sisters Flyn (Kristin Griffith), an aspiring actress, and Renata (Diane Keaton), a poet, are little better, so what will it take to shake them out of their soul-sapping doldrums?
It's also safe to say that Interiors divided audiences, and has continued to do so for decades as the first straight drama written and directed by Woody Allen, who had previous to this effort been known for his comedy. Apparently he thought that to make a non-comedic film he had to ensure that practically nobody in this had any whiff of a sense of humour, and sure enough there is not one laugh in the whole ninety minutes, unless of course you have a particular outlook that finds bleakness funny. Yet everyone in this was so solemn, so earnest, that it's little wonder that there were few who responded to it at the time.
In fact, so muted was the film for the most part that the dreaded criticism that it was boring was often levelled at it, not something people would feel comfortable saying about the most blatant influence here, Ingmar Bergman. It was as if the things that would never have been said about the Swedish director lest the speaker be thought of as a dunce were freely said about Allen with Interiors, but it was accurate to observe that in his endeavours to be judged in the same light as his cinematic hero he had created a work that would look second best to the original. However, there were those who decided, after the passage of time, that Allen has indeed succeeded on his own terms, if not on Bergman's terms.
That's not to say that the film is an easy watch, but it was valuable in the progression of the maker in that without this stepping stone he would not have been able to go on to the heights of the more seriously inflected works of his following material, movies which can be regarded as triumphs, so even if you didn't like this you couldn't claim it was a complete waste of time. It's simply that as a drama it feels like it could do with a few gags to throw the graver points into sharper relief: Allen learned from this, but here the characters are so stifled that feeling extends to the audience as well. They are either buttoning up their emotions or letting them bubble up in arguments which sound awkwardly contrived in their dialogue - when you're yelling at someone do you really construct your sentences so exactingly?
Of course it's Eve who has made her daughters like this, and there comes a stage in the proceedings when her husband Arthur (E.G. Marshall) has had enough and decides to separate from her. In her passive aggressive manner, Eve is very controlling, so to make her family feel guilty she performs a suicide attempt, although to be fair she's not exactly feeling her best when her husband has left her. The sisters are disturbed by this, but have been existing in misery for so long that even that does not alter their perceptions, though then someone happens along who does. She is Pearl (Maureen Stapleton), Arthur's new girlfriend who the family look down on because they see her as a "vulgarian" (we can tell she will rub them up the wrong way because she actually wears colourful clothes as opposed to their drabness). The scene where she redeems herself is well handled, but many will have given up on these terminally uptight characters and this worryingly uptight film before then.
American writer/director/actor and one of the most distinctive talents in American film-making over the last three decades. Allen's successful early career as a stand-up comedian led him to start his directing life with a series of madcap, scattershot comedies that included Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death. 1975's Oscar-winning Annie Hall was his first attempt to weave drama and comedy together, while 1979's Manhattan is considered by many critics to be Allen's masterpiece.
The 90s saw Allen keep up his one-film-a-year work-rate, the most notable being the fraught Husbands and Wives, gangster period piece Bullets Over Broadway, the savagely funny Deconstructing Harry and the under-rated Sweet and Lowdown. After a run of slight, average comedies, Allen returned to more ambitious territory with the split-story Melinda and Melinda, the dark London-set drama Match Point, romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of many of his films which won acting Oscars, and the unexpected late-on hits Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.