Manhattan (1979) (R)












Oh, poor Woody Allen.
I hope that you could tell the sarcasm with which I wrote the previous sentence, but if not I'm going to assure you that it was most definitely present.
"Manhattan" is one of Woody Allen's crowning acheivement. Critics site it as one of his better, if not his best works. But "Manhattan" to me just seemed like a pity party for the director/screenwriter.
"Manhattan" was the next critically acclaimed Allen film to follow the only one of his films to win Best Picture, "Annie Hall". But the difference between these two movies is striking, much more so than the simple fact that "Manhattan" was filmed in black and white. "Annie Hall" was revolutionary, experimental, and vastly entertaining. "Manhattan" is twisted, not funny, and bleak.
Isaac (Woody Allen) is a comedy screenwriter. He's a self proclaiming neurotic who just happens to be in a relationship with a 17 year old girl named Tracy. Now Tracy is old beyond her years but no one can see that but the viewer. Just because of her youth, Isaac assumes that she can't comprehend what true love really is. He knows that the relationship will end eventually but she's hoping for much more. Even at her young age she's ready to settle down and start a healthy lifestyle with someone, and Isaac appears to be the best candidate. Isaac is trying to start writing a book and after realizing that the puff scripts that he's been pumping out don't really amount to much, he quits his job to focus solely on his book.
Then there's Isaac's best friend Yale. Yale's been married twelve years to his wife but he's having an affair with Mary (the usual Allen suspect, Diane Keaton). When Isaac first meets Mary he absolutely despises her. She contradicts everything he says and randomly remarks about her birthplace of Philadelphia, like that has any bering on the conversation.
But as time wears on and as situations come about in peculiar ways, Isaac starts to fall in love with Mary. He realizes that he's going to have to cut things off with Tracy so he does.
This all piles up, plus the fact that his ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), who left him for another woman, is writing a book about their marriage.
(From here on out, there are SPOILERS)
Isaac's relationship with Tracy seems to be a carbon copy of Allen's own relationships with Harlene Rosen, who was only sixteen when Allen married her.
Let's face it, it's hard to feel anything else than a little bit uncomfortable during the scenes in which Tracy and Isaac are passionately kissing and discussing their sexual encounters. Nothing explicit is shown but everything is heavily implied by dialogue in latter scenes.
So after Isaac dumps Tracy and Yale and Mary break it off, he feels free to start things up with Mary. But things don't go according to plans.
After many weeks of great passion and love, Mary decides that she's still in love with Yale and returns to him.
Isaac is left stunned, and realizes that the biggest mistake he ever made was leaving Tracy who he returns to just as she's leaving the country to study abroad. She leaves and we see Manhattan once more before the ending credits.
Rather than the usual quirk and kick that I get from Allen films, this one seemed way too much like an autobiography and a preachy one at that. It's clear that Allen was trying to justify all the things that he had done but it didn't entertain me. I felt bogged down by all the relationships and all the let downs.
For a comedy "Manhattan" has no laughs is rather depressing.
Rather than feel empathy for Isaac, I just wanted him to get his life together.
He never does and I came out of the movie disappointed.

Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4

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