Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film: MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993) starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton


I am not a Woody Allen acolyte but I do love New York and I do love mysteries. Though at first I didn't love this film, thought it too meandering around the plot as usual with Woody Allen. But after reading Dorian's wonderfully adoring review of MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, I decided to give it another look-see.

Lo and behold, I am now a convert. I do love this movie even with its meandering faults. Thanks be to Dorian. 

The unfancy title, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, is exactly what it says, a murder mystery set in Manhattan, a film directed by Woody Allen, screenplay by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman and starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Houston, Joy Behar (we love Joy Behar around these parts), Ron Rifkin, Jerry Adler and Lynn Cohen.


The big attraction for me, of course, is the setting: Manhattan. The streets, the restaurants (even the famed 21 Club where I (trying not to gawk) once attended a business lunch alongside Helen Gurley Brown, my boss the fashion editor, and several other important business types), the ambience of the film is all so wonderfully New Yawk as I remember it from having spent a good portion of my life there. I love that Allen always shows people walking and talking on location, on the streets of the city. (Well, he lives there, so he should know the best locations I'd think.)

In fact, the murder in the title takes place inside a comfortable Manhattan high rise. (The sort with an awning and a doorman.) On the case are Carol and Larry Lipton (Diane Keaton and Woody Allen) who are, conveniently, neighbors of the murder victim. 


At the beginning and in oh-so-typical Woody Allen style, Larry is all over jittery and reluctant to get involved, Carol is the one who thinks murder is afoot even when everyone else (including the cops) assumes the victim died naturally of a heart attack. But Carol can be persuasive and after many at length conversations, the couple is drawn into a series of fumbling sleuthing adventures which are, in a low-key comedy kind of way, fun to watch. 

Larry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton - the evening before the murder most foul. 

An elderly couple, Paul and Lillian House (Jerry Adler and Lynn Cohen) are the neighbors which capture Carol Lipton's nosy (let's face it) interest. When Lillian suddenly dies of a heart attack, Carol is suspicious though it was a known fact that Lillian had a heart condition. After much discussion (lots of smart New Yawkese talky-talk going on in this film), with Larry and with skeptical friends, Carol manages to come up with a couple of clues and drags the still VERY reluctant Larry (he'd rather mind his own business in typical New York fashion) into the mix.


That's the plot. Not exactly earth-shattering, but intriguing enough. It's the sort of tale that works best, I would imagine, if you've ever lived or visited New York and gotten a hint or two of the flavor of the city. The 'flavor' of the city is what Woody Allen does best. He knows these sorts of people, he understands the workings of the city and its many well-heeled professionals. 


Though Alan Alda is not my first choice when I think of Manhattan, he actually fits right in as Ted, a friend of the sleuthing couple. Ted has a roving eye on Carol - she, well aware of it, doesn't reciprocate though I don't see how she could not be tempted - I mean, Woody Allen.


By the way: someone explain to me the coupling of Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. Please. Although they look funny enough together on screen (and did in real life). It still takes a bit of work for me to accept that Carol would walk down the aisle with Larry. 

But maybe he makes her laugh. 

Since this is Tuesday, don't forget to check in later with Todd's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other forgotten (or overlooked) films, television or other audio/visuals other bloggers are talking about today.

18 comments:

  1. Liked this one. Love Diane Keaton's acting.

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    1. I do too. She's natural and quirky.

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  2. I saw this years ago, and I'll see it again, even though I've boycotted Woody Allen's movies since rather awful allegations arose against him.

    But, I do love Joy Behar. My life has been impacted by her absence from TV. I watched her shows on whatever network she was on. She has a brilliant comic mind. (And I love that she roasted Chris Christie, too.)

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    1. Yeah, Joy Behar and Ron Rifkin make a great couple in this movie. I love that they're so typically New Yawkish. One thing I will say for Allen, he gives good casts.

      I don't know whether those accusations were true or not, but it's enough that he seduced a young girl who was under his protection while he was in a long term relationship and had a child with, her step-mother.

      But I don't think about it too much. Who knows what really goes on with people behind closed doors - the older I get the more I realize that human beings are, to put it mildly, strange.

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  3. One of my favorite Allen movies. And many women are seduced by intelligence and wit, I think.

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    1. Oh, intelligence, wit, charm, kindness and good humor are the important things, sure.

      None of which Woody Allen projects (at least to me) - except maybe creative intelligence and a certain cleverness perfectly adapted to what he does. If only I didn't think that his ego is the size of Mount Everest.

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  4. I have to admit that I've enjoyed the later Woody Allen movies, the ones with less celebration of neurosis. What I appreciate about his movies — as you have mentioned — is that he obviously has a love for beautiful architecture and is willing to go into short visual digressions to showcase it.

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    1. Yes, I agree, Mark. He loves New York and it shows. He also, I think, loves Paris. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is so wonderful.

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  5. Yvette, I saw this film for Alan Alda and Diane Keaton and not because it was directed by Woody Allen. I have never quite understood his movies.

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    1. I've only ever seen four of them and those four I think were probably the easiest to reckon with. I was never a big fan of ANNIE HALL, (the Allen film most people recognize) don't remember even being able to sit through it all at one time.

      His work is definitely an acquired taste, Prashant. :)

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  6. I think intelligence and wit is the allure with Woody Allen, at least I think it was for Diane Keaton. And he helped her career a lot!

    I liked his humor years ago in Hannah and her Sisters, a lot of Jewish humor which had me rolling on the floor -- and friends, too.
    I could just hear my relatives saying what Allen's character said.

    Mentioning his gigantic ego, one thing that turned me off years ago was reading some of his affidavit to a court about the daughter he was accused of molesting. I read Allen's statement, which enraged the judge. It was all about him, his feelings, his needs, nothing about the child. That did it for me.

    But I did cave and watch Midnight in Paris, mainly because I knew Corey Stoll, who played Hemingway brilliantly, when he was a child.

    I'll watch a few movies, and forget my anger at him for awhile.

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  7. I really did like HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, too, Kathy. Loved that they filmed inside Mia Farrow's apartment which was/is, to me the quintessential West Side NY apartment. Loved the Jewish humor too. SO typical of the stuff I would hear all the time while growing up in the city - even though I wasn't Jewish, I learned all the wise-cracks because I had a good ear. :) Loved it all.

    Between you and me, I think we can agree that Allen is a little creepy. But still, I have affection for a few of his movies. I did love MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, and was so happy he wasn't in front of the camera. Corey Stoll was magnificent - he and Adrien Brody (as Dali) stole the movie. It's worth watching for them both AND the city of Paris. Good enough reasons, I'd say. :)

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  8. Yvette, my friend, I'm as happy as a new puppy that you've made MANHATTAN MYSTERY this week's "in so many words" review! Oh, and to get Woody Allen's less appetizing issues out of the way, I'm ignoring it, because, as I always say: "I don't want to marry the guy, I just want to watch and enjoy the movie!" And enjoyable it is indeed, especially with Diane Keaton and Woody Allen playing husband and wife with wit, wacky comedy, fabulous NYC locations (remember, I had lived in NYC for several years. Thanks and you're welcome, my friend! before moving to Northwest PA, and we still visit our home town every chance we get). The supporting cast is swell, too, with Alan Alda, Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, the fabulous Anjelica Huston, teenage Zach Brach before he became the star of TV's SCRUBS and several films of his own, including WISH I YOU WERE THERE (co-starring Team Bartilucci favorite Kate Hudson). Thanks for your tip of the hat, my friend; you've perked my whole day! :-D

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    1. Oh, you're welcome, Dorian, m'dear. I'm always ready to give credit where credit is due, especially since it is all owing to you that I gave this movie a second a chance. And boy am I glad I did. In fact, I'm suddenly in the mood to see this again. It's just the sort of movie to watch on a chilly October night. :)

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  9. When I saw Hannah and her Sisters, there was a scene with Woody Allen sitting in a doctor's office hearing a diagnosis of a brain tumor. He thinks it's about him, and leaves, preparing for his life to end. His neuroses are working overtime.

    My then-partner saw that movie and was then convinced that he had a brain tumor after hearing the symptoms! This lasted for about a week. You can imagine the hilarity over that!

    And Woody Allen's questioning of other religions, and then his discussions with his parents knocked me over. When he asks his father "why were there Nazis." His father says, "You're asking me why there were Nazix? I can't even figure out how to use this can opener." Laughed till I was out of breath.

    I remember telling my Jewish mother about that dialogue and she laughed so hard.

    So brilliant stuff. Too bad about the ego. I'd say too bad about his treatment of young women, and his attitude towards them, which comes through in several of his movies.

    Anyway, I'll watch this one and maybe I'll rewatch Hannah and her Sisters just to laugh.

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  10. And since HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is set in Autumn in NY, it's perfect for this time of year. Good choice. I've moved both films up on my queue. Talking about them made me want to see them again. :)

    "You're asking me why there were Nazis? I can't even figure out how to use this can opener." HA!

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  11. All right. I guess it's time to rewatch Hannah and her Sisters for the humor.

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  12. I arrive late but full of love and admiration for this movie, a proper valentine to the classic screwball mystery of the 30s and 40s - and for this most seemingly unlikely couple - Allen is apparently very, very different from his on-screen persona, but hell, gives every uncoventional type out there hope, right?

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