Teiresias bound

Hollywood Ending

Hollywood Ending
Starring Woody Allen, Debra Messing, Tea Leoni, Treat Williams and Mark Rydell. Directed by Woody Allen. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0 Even when they’re less than top-notch, Woody Allen’s comedies deliver an abundance of smart, frisky entertainment. His new one, Hollywood Ending, joins a blithely outlandish premise—a movie director trying to make a new film while hiding the fact that he’s gone blind—to the classic screwball comedy plot about the divorced couple who can’t stay away from each other.

The level of inspiration varies considerably from moment to moment here, but the intermingling of old-fashioned romantic comedy and stingingly contemporary satire on Hollywood generates its own more or less irresistible momentum. And Woody the writer-director continues to percolate in ways that indirectly compensate for his dwindling appeal as a performer.

Allen plays the down-on-his-luck director as a self-absorbed joker who may be myopic about a great many things. Hysterical blindness is just one of his problems, but the off-kilter chemistry between Allen and his female co-stars—Tea Leoni as the ex-wife; Debra Messing as the ditzy girlfriend—contributes unexpectedly to the comedy of concealed emotional agendas among a half-dozen characters.

Leoni and Messing are both good in slightly offbeat ways, and actor-director Mark Rydell is fine as the blind director’s mother hen of an agent. Treat Williams and George Hamilton both do sleekly ironic turns as overly polished Hollywood executives.