"Manhattan" is a play with good cinematography. That is,
there's no action scenes, but there is a great deal of
dialogue, George Gerschwin music, and shots of New York
City. The Gershwin soundtrack is actually intrusive,
but the script is excellent.
Woody Allen directed, co-wrote and starred in the film.
He is torn between two girlfriends: young and earnest
Mariel Hemingway and indecisive pseudo-intellectual
Diane Keaton. Keaton also has an on-off affair with
Michael Murphy (who had just played another philandering
husband in "An Unmarried Woman"). To complicate things
further, Allen has quit his day job to write a novel,
and is trying to stop his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) from
publishing a tell-all expose of their marriage.
The script is terrific. Allen has a gift for
self-deprecating humor, and can also milk commonplace
setbacks (e.g. his new, inferior apartment has brown
tap water) for laughs. Allen's sense of humor and
romantic nature makes it almost credible that his
character would be dating Hemingway and Keaton despite
his unemployment and unromantic appearance.
Allen and his film characters seem to have much
in common. Allen uses "Manhattan" as a platform
to promote his art preferences (Bergman and Fellini
for films, Louis Armstrong and George Gerschwin
for music, etc) clearly favoring the nostalgic
and esoteric over the present and popular. For
most actors, this would be egotistical and distracting,
but for Allen and "Manhattan" it works. This may
be because Allen's character is an intellectual
who would be expected to have and espouse such views.
Copyright © 1999 Brian Koller