Talent agent Broadway Danny Rose argues with Tina the Mafia widow--her husband shot in the eyes, which is fatal, Danny realizes, because "the bullets go right through." And she insists--Mia Farrow re-inventing herself, loud and abrupt, made of hairspray and inch-thick fingernail enamel--that you better give it to the other guy before he gives it to you, life's short, step on a neck if you need to. Danny--whose own neck will soon suffer some strain--is appalled. He quotes his dead Uncle Sidney, who believed in "acceptance, forgiveness and love." And Danny himself, who wants to have some laughs, insists you gotta suffer a little too, "because otherwise you miss the whole point of life." And on top of that is guilt, even the guilt of not believing in God. He is trapped by these ideas, and they take every worldly success from him.
Thanksgiving, though, must go on--a stack of TV dinners for his broken-down clientele, blind jugglers and stuttering ventriloquists, balloon-folders (never playing colleges, as he promised, still folding in joints) and dead-bird acts--and he bustles around as he always has, a part of him sick of it, the other eager to accept and forgive and love. And he manages a little piece of that, while the real world moves on without a glance over its shoulder--except one more look from Tina--and a hug and a kiss, the three magic words of Danny's useless version of show business--"star, smile, strong"--tossed on the sidewalk so that he can hold her. Woody Allen, like all comedians, seems to hate us sometimes--the audience clueless and ugly, with the sense of humor of a flat tire, worthy only of his worn-out patter--"how old are you, darling, what's your sign, that's beautiful"; but Danny Rose passes haplessly through this scorn until he gives everyone, even himself, a little mercy.