Film critic Allan Felix (Woody Allen, who wrote both the screenplay and the 1969 play on which he based it) has been left by his wife Nancy (Susan Anspach), whose grounds for separation were Allan’s passionate love affair with the cinema.
This sends the forlorn neurotic critic into the deepest realms of depression, until – in a desperate search for comfort – he retreats into a world of Hollywood reveries populated by the classic characters of the silver screen.
Allan’s psyche employs Humphrey Bogart as his analyst, who assures the film fanatic that “the world is full of dames. All you got to do is whistle”.
Unfortunately, since the general mindset of the 1970s urban woman is pretty much at odds with that of the 1940s screen vamp, Allan’s attempts at wooing the ladies fail miserably. Every time his real-life friends Dick and Linda (Tony Roberts and Diane Keaton) introduce him to a woman, Allan goes into his bizarre rendition of Bogey.
Instead of hat, trench coat and occasional swig of booze, the scrawny Casanova’s trademarks include long hair, glasses and a slight addiction to over-the-counter medication.
Still, none of this prevents him from using Hollywood lines such as “I love the rain – it washes memories off the sidewalk of life” as if they were his own.
His unintentionally ludicrous inner-Bogart doesn’t do much to help him overcome his inferiority complex either. In fact, Allan’s nervousness often gets the better of him.
While out on a first date, he starts flailing his arms uncontrollably, throws vinyl records haphazardly through the air and somehow thinks he can impress the opposite sex by piling mounds of rice into his mouth at a Chinese restaurant.
His love interest, understandably, has an allergic reaction to this sort of tomfoolery.
In another scene, he is shunned by a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac when he begins to grunt like a wanton ape in heat. Like an epileptic Buddhist at the junior prom, he twitches while muttering some sort of personal mantra in a futile effort to suavely keep in time with the music at the disco.
Linda, his wife’s best friend, helps Allan with these painful mishaps, but an explosive chain of events is set off when he ends up falling in love with her.