Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Allen, Keaton, Murphy, Hoffman
MANHATTAN  (1979 ). Director: Woody Allen.Written by Allen and Marshall Brickman.

"I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics."

"My first wife was a kindergarten teacher. She got into drugs, moved to L.A. became a moonie. Now she's a William Morris agent."

41-year-old Isaac (Woody Allen), whose wife, Jill (Meryl Streep), left him for another woman, Connie (Karen Ludwig), is now dating an adoring 17-year-old named Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Isaac's buddy, Yale (Michael Murphy), who is married to Emily (Anne Byrne Hoffman), is having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton), but Isaac and Mary find themselves drawn to each other, especially as Yale shows no signs of leaving his wife, and Isaac is all too aware of the age difference between him and Tracy. As Manhattan begins, it seems to be a love valentine to New York City, but as the movie proceeds it becomes clear that it is just another Woody Allen Movie with the same fake, self-serving Woody Allen-type see in most of his movies. This "Manhattan" is strictly for and about rich white upper eastsiders -- you won't see a Black, Latino or Asian face throughout the movie (although there is a gay couple, as mentioned)! As expected, there's some good dialogue, and the acting is mostly on target, although Keaton tries to be amusing and generally fails. A built-in problem with Allen's movies is that, while the real Allen probably has no problem getting dates because he's rich and famous, having all these women throwing themselves at a less successful fellow who looks like Allen is highly improbable. Given what we now know of Allen's private life, it's easy to see why the plot goes in certain directions. Bella Abzug has a cameo and the repulsive Wallace Shawn, even less attractive than Allen, shows up very briefly as Keaton's ex-husband. Back in the seventies, Allen's films were seen as sharp and sophisticated and altogether wonderful, dealing frankly with adult subject matter, or what passes for same, but many of them don't really hold up and are due for reevaluation. Manhattan does its best to avoid the real dramatic scenes, especially in the depiction of Yale's discarded wife. The ending to the film makes Isaac seem even yuckier.

Verdict: Allen has made some good movies, but this isn't one of them. This should have been called A Nerd's Fantasy Life. **.


angelman66 said...

Bill, I feel exactly as you do about this film...even though it is heralded as one of Woody's greats, it merely grates on me, and these days the lack of diversity (racial and socioeconomic) in Allen's films is quite glaring...
I much prefer Annie Hall over Manhattan, even though it has the same narrow oevre, it's just a much better-told story.
My favorite Woody Allens are Hannah and Her Sisters (yes, I know, the lives of more rich Manhattanites!) and Interiors (ditto!!)...but definitely not Manhattan!

William said...

I'm glad somebody else agrees with me on this. I hadn't seen it in years and didn't even remember what I thought of it, but it got off to a bad start when it was clear that Allen's view of Manhattan and New York is just so narrow, not to mention other stuff I didn't care for, such as his relationship with a minor. I know he's going for the elegant, sophisticated (white) New York of old movies, but he has to eventually realize Manhattan doesn't just consist of the Upper East Side and Elaine's (one of the most over-rated restaurants in the city).

I do recall liking "Hannah" and "Interiors" and the DVD of "Annie Hall" is on my desk now, just waiting.