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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Manhattan - 1979
Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) is an acclaimed TV comedy writer that is tired of the same old material he works with, and spends his days dreaming of becoming an American novelist. At the same time his wife has left him and is writing a book about their marriage, while Isaac is dating a young seventeen year old. Isaac's best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) who is married but has begun an affair with a writer, Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton). Randomly Isaac goes on a rage, quits his job, and starts working on his novel. Then Yale splits with Mary to save his marriage, and after spending a certain amount of time with her Isaac may be falling in love with Mary.
Now, after viewing Manhattan, I think I can safely say I have Woody Allen's directorial style figured out, and oh what a truly delightful one it is. Pretty music softly playing in the background for most of the film while Allen absolutely dazzles us with the beauty of the filming in New York. I have always wished to go there, and this only makes me want to more. If breathtaking was ever a word to be used, that's what I would describe Manhattan as. The beginning, which is nothing but different shots of New York, is beyond stunning, I was instantly hooked in the first three minutes of the film. Very similar to Midnight in Paris, Allen's most recent film. Manhattan, as a film itself, is never really that interesting, but with Allen's smart direction he keeps the audience interested. From a general point of view, the most exciting thing that happens is an almost heated conversation. But without a doubt Allen's direction holds the film together from beginning to end, making sure no one turns the television off before the film is over. I will say though, that the film began to lag a bit in the last 10 minutes or so, and I feel that Allen might have rushed the ending a bit.
As you already know, over the past week I have come to have a very high respect for Woody Allen as a filmmaker, but not just that. He is also an undeniably brilliant screenwriter, proving that with Manhattan. The storytelling is probably the weakest aspect of his screenplay. There was certainly nothing wrong with it, but I cannot say it's very special or original. The script has to be the most impressive part. In a world today where asking for a good script, whether television or movie, seems to just be too much, watching Manhattan was a sigh of relief for me. It is so beautifully written, and I would actually say it is some of the finest writing I have ever heard in a film.
Now on to the characters. This is one of the things that made the film run as well as it did. Woody Allen's character, Isaac Davis, was hilarious and entirely unforgettable. I was laughing from the start when he is writing his novel and speaking into a voice recorder. Davis is a frustrated man that does not know for sure what he wants in life, similar to Owen Wilson's character in Midnight in Paris, and I loved him. Perfect writing on Allen's part. I cannot, however, say the same for Diane Keaton's character, Mary Wilke. Though an incredible chracter written by Allen, I found her personality and such terribly annoying, which I am sure was supposed to be the case anyways. The rest of the characters were a little more on the dull side, but they worked great as supporters, so there was no loss in the end.
The acting was spectacular, and this being the first time I had ever ween Woody Allen in a movie, I was quite surprised at his talent. Bringing his character to life in every possible way, I honestly have no complaints at all for Allen's performance. He was light-hearted, funny, and just an all around joy to watch. Diane Keaton was excellent, maybe not one of her finest works, but still as good as anyone. Mariel Hemingway was a big surprise, as I usually do not enjoy her in movies. She perfectly captures the innocence of her character, and that is about all you can ask of her. I did not particularly care for Michael Murphy, but I do not think he took away from the film at all. Meryl Streep was fine, but not really in the movie enough to say anything regarding her performance. And then Wallace Shawn's two seconds of fame were amazing! I have always been a fan, and since this is one of the first films he ever showed his face in, I was delighted to see him.
Overall, Manhattan is not quite the masterpiece i had heard it was, but certainly still an incredible film. Woody Allen is definitely moving up on my list after this beautifully photographed film with fantastic cinematography. Don't get your hopes up to high, but Manhattan ranks pretty high for comedies.