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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Manhattan - 1979

As my most recent post about Woody Allen indicated, I have now made it a point to look into more of Allen's works, and a few other directors as well. Manhattan was one that I have always been interested in, and after a few suggestions I thought it was a great place to start. I am very glad to announce that I was not even the slightest bit disappointed, in fact, I would go as far as saying Manhattan impressed me to the extent that I have already viewed a different Allen film, and I am looking into others at this very moment. I do have a few minor complaints about the film, but all in all it is one that should be watched by any film buff around.

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.

Rating: 9/10


  1. Superb review. Haven't seen this yet but it looks like I should. Check your inbox for a message I sent you. =)

  2. Yes, you should. Thanks, and sorry, but I didn't get a message.

  3. Awesome review. It makes me really want to check this out.

  4. Another well-penned review Matt, a Allen film I need to see asap.

  5. Thanks Daniel, it is a must.

  6. Yeah, Annie Hall is next on my list and I have heard it is better than this one. Thanks!

  7. Well written..
    I am afraid I've yet to see any substantial Allen works..rom-coms and light romantic films aren't my cup of tea...
    I've seen only Vicky Christina Barcelona which I think sucked really bad!

  8. That's understandable, I am just now getting into him. Really? I have read that is a great film, but maybe not, i'll have to check it out. Thanks!