A Manhattan Murder Mystery

A Manhattan Murder Mystery

Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Release date: June 7th 2010
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 103 minutes
Year of production: 1993

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston

Jack’s Annie Hall review

Although not the most commercially successful or artistically striking of Allen’s films – Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) is definitely worth a watch.

Allen and Marshall Brickman are best known for their joint writing of Sleeper (1973), Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979). The witty back-and-forths and surreal scenes are fundamental to their writing style, although with Manhattan Murder Mystery the writing is noticeably different. The clever dialogue is still there but the film lacks the obvious surreal elements that you get with films like Annie Hall or Sleeper. There are no walking through scenes of childhood or jumping into the future. But you really don’t need it with this film at all.

When Larry (Woody Allen) and Carol’s (Diane Keaton) next door neighbour dies of a heart attack; suspicions begin to rise about the nature of his death. They lead to a series of investigations by Carol and her friend Ted (Alan Alda), and as tensions mount in the strained relationships of the characters, the real mystery of the film is who will end up sleeping with who.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

The most striking aspect of the film is the cinematography. In certain scenes the camera simply moves lazily from one side of the room to the other as different actors speak, while in other scenes it’s like the film has been recorded with a handheld camera. It’s almost like it’s been filmed by a child…and quite an unprofessional child at that! The rough and ready camera movements do eventually add to the charm of the film, and work well with Carol and Ted as they act out their fantasies of amateur detective work. The stake-out scenes in particular are entertaining as they clearly don’t have a clue what they are doing – much like the camerawork.

The neurotic partnership between Larry and Carol is familiar territory for Allen and Keaton. The two actors fit comfortably into their troubled middle-aged relationship, and their dynamics couldn’t be more natural. They connect quickly – and easily –  which Allen fans have come to expect from these two actors; as they effortlessly move through the well written script you can tell they’ve worked together before.

The performance of the supporting actors is remarkable. Anjelica Huston’s Marcia Fox adds is serious competition for Carol, whilst Alan Alda’s Ted is the ideal counterbalance for Larry. Manhattan Murder MysteryWith both characters swiftly established as sexual predators, Larry and Carol have got their work cut out for them to not fall prey to either Marcia or Ted.

Jerry Adler also provided a compelling performance as the mysterious, stamp collecting neighbour – although it’s hard to look at him without thinking ‘wow that’s Hesh from The Sopranos before he was Hesh from The Sopranos’.

Performance aside, the pace of the film does leave something to be desired. The first half moves very slowly as it introduces the characters, establishes their relationships and deals Manhattan Murder Mysterywith the questionable murder mystery. Although the dialogue is entertaining and fun to watch, the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

The film does pick up as it goes along, and while the plot is moving forward it starts gathering momentum. That is when Manhattan Murder Mystery really comes into its own; as the plot gets more and more exaggerated, the film becomes better and better – finally culminating in a fantastically plotted, and unexpected ending – yet very Allen-esque. Without giving too much away: what you thought was going to happen, but were thinking all along it wouldn’t happen, probably didn’t happen.

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  1. great review, very informative and well written

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