A very close second behind “Crimes and Misdemeanors” for my all-time favorite Woody Allen film, “Husbands and Wives” is Allen’s abrasively funny, embarrassing, dark, and extremely uncomfortable look at two troubled marriages. Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis are a couple trying to have an amicable divorce until … well … real life takes over. Once they start dating other people, the fur starts to fly. Witnessing this meltdown are their married friends played by Woody Allen and Mia Farrow who start to have their own issues once things unravel for Pollack and Davis.
This film is best remembered as the Allen film that was released around the time Allen and Farrow were going through their own ugly and public breakup. Unfortunately, the controversy over their breakup in real life overshadowed what a great film this is. Allen is at his best when he’s flinging acid at the audience and while it’s ultimately a comedy, I remember being very disturbed by the film when I saw it back in 1992, a feeling I couldn’t shake for days.
“Husbands and Wives” is, arguably, one of the most influential films of the last 20 years. It’s single camera, pseudo-documentary style (which audiences at the time claimed made their stomachs sick) can be seen in some of the most popular and critically-acclaimed TV shows of the last decade (“Modern Family,” “30 Rock,” “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”).