Radio Days

by Damian Cannon

In tribute to the lost radio stars of the 1940s Woody Allen has produced a witty, atmospheric and captivating movie. This departure from pure comedy has led to a story where the characters are more important than the jokes; which is not to say that this isn't a very funny film, it is. However, the story is unusual in that it follows the twin themes of Radio and growing up during the WWII years rather than a purely linear plot. The central character is Little Joe (Seth Green in body, but narrated by Woody Allen), a young Jewish kid growing up on Long Island. In typical extended family tradition his house is home to: Mother (Julie Kavner), Father (Michael Tucker), Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest) and other eccentric relations. The radio is always on and Little Joe's favourite performer is the Lone Ranger...

...and this is the key - every vignette that Allen casts his loving eye over has a connection to the radio. For instance, we hear the tale of Sally White (Mia Farrow), a Bronx cigarette-girl with dreams of becoming a radio star. The only drawbacks are her lack of talent, abysmal accent and lack of class - nothing that can't be changed given enough determination. Or perhaps the incident where burglars answered the phone in a house they were robbing and won the jackpot on a 'Name That Tune' competition, which surprised the homeowners when the prizes were delivered the next day. The spirit of the movie as it switches between Little Joe's working-class neighbourhood and the glamour of Manhattan is simply joyous.

Above all of these fascinating scenes lies the stunning dialogue. Allen has scripted lines which are exactly those which people who have been married for years would say - the snappy remarks, the little digs and the unstated comments. We genuinely feel that these characters have reality, feelings and honest desires - just like the rest of us. If you add the vital ingredient of music, which is both great to listen to and from the big-band era, the result is an evocative paean to a world without TV. I'm not old enough to know what the time was like, but by riding on Allen's memories I sure wish that I could visit.

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