September sees Woody Allen in a compellingly melancholy mood, as he sends four achingly unhappy younger people and two better adjusted older ones through a grim story drenched with Chekhovian overtones.
Set entirely within the lovely Vermont country home of Mia Farrow at summer’s end, tale is constructed around a pattern of unrequited, mismatched infatuations that drive the high-strung, intellectual characters to distraction. Neighbor Denholm Elliott loves Farrow, Farrow is a goner for guest- house occupant Sam Waterston, and Waterston is nuts for Farrow’s best friend Dianne Wiest, who is married.
Also visting are Farrow’s mother, a former screen star and great beauty played by Elaine Stritch, and the latter’s husband, physicist Jack Warden.
So it goes, a merry-go-round of frustration, resentment, heartbreak, disappointment and bitterness, described in brittle, often piercing terms in Allen’s dialog. Happily, the air is cleared on occasion by the outrageous Stritch, whose rowdy, forthright comments never fail to lighten the mood and provide genuine amusement.
This is the film Allen largely reshot with a significantly altered cast after feeling dissatisfied with his first version. Originally, Maureen O’Sullivan, Farrow’s real mother, played the role finally filled by Stritch. Sam Shepard, then, briefly, Christopher Walken, had Waterston’s part, and Elliott was first cast as the actress’ husband, with Charles Durning in the role of the neighbor.