September (1987 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Woody Allen|
|Produced by||Robert Greenhut|
|Written by||Woody Allen|
|Cinematography||Carlo Di Palma|
|Edited by||Susan E. Morse|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures Corporation|
|Running time||82 minutes|
September is a 1987 film written and directed by Woody Allen. Allen's intention of September was to be like "a play on film," thus the great number of long takes and few camera effects.
The movie does not feature Allen as an actor, and is one of his straightforward dramatic films. The cast includes Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Elaine Stritch, Jack Warden, and Denholm Elliott.
The plot centers on Lane (Mia Farrow), who is recovering from a suicide attempt in her house in the country during the tail end of summer. Local widower Howard (Denholm Elliott) has befriended her. Her friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest) is spending the month with her, and her mother, Diane (Elaine Stritch), and stepfather (Jack Warden) come to visit. It is a story of unrequited love, betrayal, selfishness, and loneliness.
After a failed suicide attempt, Lane (Mia Farrow) has moved into her country house to recuperate. Her best friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest) has come to join her for the summer to have some time away from her husband. Lane's brassy offensive mother Diane (Elaine Stritch) has recently arrived with her physicist husband (Jack Warden), Lane's stepfather. Lane is close with two neighbors: Peter (Sam Waterston), a struggling writer, and Howard (Denholm Elliott), a French teacher. Howard is in love with Lane, Lane is in love with Peter, and Peter is in love with Stephanie.
Diane, once a well-known actress, wants Peter to write her biography -- primarily because, many years earlier, a teenage Lane supposedly shot her mother's (Diane's) abusive lover. Lane does not want this painful event to go back in the spotlight, but Peter thinks it would make a great story.
One evening, Diane decides to host a party, ruining Lane's plans with Peter. Peter arrives early and confesses to Stephanie that he has wanted to be alone with her for a long time. Outside, there is an electrical storm, and the lights go out. Candles and piano music create a romantic setting. Diane finds her old Ouija Board and talks to the spirits of her previous lovers. A very drunk Howard finally reveals his feelings to Lane, who does not return them. Peter tells Lane that he does not share her feelings. Lane seems to take the rejection well. When everyone else has gone to bed, Peter tries seducing Stephanie, but she is conflicted, later following him back to his house.
The next morning, a real estate agent is showing a couple around the house; Lane is counting on the money from the sale to move back to New York. Lane is feeling depressed: she has not taken Peter's rejection well after all, exacerbating Stephanie's guilt. Soon after, Peter arrives and kisses Stephanie, just as Lane opens the door to show the room to prospective buyers, and Lane is shocked. Stephanie insists that it meant nothing, while Peter tells Lane that the two of them have deep feelings for each other. Diane comes downstairs, announcing that she and her husband are going to move into the house, permanently. Lane becomes even more distraught, insisting that Diane gifted the property to Lane a long time ago. Diane dismisses it as one of her own drunken whims. Lane experiences a breakdown, accusing her mother of being fake and insensitive.
The climax of the film comes when an anguished Lane cries, "You're the one who pulled the trigger! I just said what the lawyers told me to say", thus revealing that Diane was actually the one who shot her abusive lover. Presumably, Diane's lawyers thought it would be better if Lane took the fall, as she would be treated leniently. The ordeal has obviously been hugely detrimental to Lane's life. Diane finally concedes that if she could go back, she would behave differently.
Everyone leaves, except for Stephanie and Lane. Lane has a lot of paperwork that needs to be done for the sale of the house. The film ends with Stephanie encouraging Lane to "keep busy".
- Denholm Elliott as Howard
- Dianne Wiest as Stephanie
- Mia Farrow as Lane
- Elaine Stritch as Diane
- Sam Waterston as Peter
- Jack Warden as Lloyd
- Rosemary Murphy as Mrs. Mason
Allen shot the film twice. It originally starred Sam Shepard as Peter (after Christopher Walken shot a few scenes, but was determined not to be right for the role), Maureen O'Sullivan as Diane, and Charles Durning as Howard. After editing the film he decided to re-write it, re-cast it, and re-shoot it. 
- Broad Street Review: Taking liberties with Chekhov
- http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/02/23/reviews/september.html Lax, Eric. "For Woody Allen, 60 Days Hath 'September'", The New York Times. December 6, 1987.