Val Waxman (Allen) is a once prestigious film director lately reduced to overseeing cheesy television commercials in order to pay his bills and support his current live-in girlfriend, Lori (Debra Messing). When he is thrown off his latest effort (a deodorant commercial being filmed in the frozen north), he desperately seeks a real movie project.
Out of the blue, Val receives an offer to direct a big-budget blockbuster movie to be set in New York City. However, the offer comes from his former wife, Ellie (Téa Leoni), and her boyfriend, Hal (Treat Williams), who stole her from Val.
Pushed by his agent Al Hack (Mark Rydell), Val agrees to the project, but a psychosomatic ailment strikes him blind just before production is to begin. With Al's encouragement and aid, Val keeps his blindness a secret from the cast and studio head. The movie plays out with an aging director struggling to regain his vision, both literally and metaphorically. During filming, Val rekindles his relationship with Ellie and reconnects with his estranged son, Tony. When Val regains what had been missing his life, he regains sight as well.
In the end, Val's project costs $60 million—and flops. Nevertheless, Val enjoys a "Hollywood ending" of his own—his movie is a hit in France. After winning Ellie back, he happily proclaims, "Thank God the French exist."Woody Allen - Val Waxman
Téa Leoni - Ellie
George Hamilton - Ed
Treat Williams - Hal
Debra Messing - Lori
Neal Huff - Commercial A.D.
Mark Rydell - Al Hack
Lu Yu - Cameraman
Barney Cheng - Translator
Jodie Markell - Andrea Ford
Isaac Mizrahi - Elio Sebastian
Marian Seldes - Alexandra
Tiffani Thiessen - Sharon Bates
Peter Gerety - Psychiatrist
Greg Mottola - Assistant Director
Fred Melamed - Pappas
Jeff Mazzola - Prop Man
Aaron Stanford - Actor
Erica Leerhsen - Actress
Joe Rigano - Projectionist
Mark Webber - Tony Waxman
The film received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received 47% positive reviews, based on 130 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 46 out of 100, based on 37 reviews.
The film was a failure in American theaters, with ticket sales under $5 million. with a worldwide gross of only $14.8 million.
It was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
In the United Kingdom, it was the first of Allen's films not to receive a theatrical release.
Film critic Bryant Frazer thought that it suffered from poor editing. He wrote, "What's most frustrating is the sense that Hollywood Ending could have been quite a bit better than it actually is. At 114 minutes, it's decisively lacking in the brevity that used to characterize Allen's pictures—even the super-serious, Bergman-inspired stuff. Worse, his timing seems to be off—the filmmaker who was once notorious for cutting his films to the absolute bone now gives us rambling, overlong shots featuring performers who almost seem to be ad libbing their dialogue. I ran to the Internet Movie Database to investigate, and discovered what may be the problem—Susan Morse is gone. Morse, the editor who had worked with Allen since Manhattan in 1979 and who turned into a real soldier by the time of the jazzy montage that characterized Deconstructing Harry, was reportedly a victim of budget-cutting within the ranks."
In 2016 film critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey ranked Hollywood Ending as the worst movie by Woody Allen.