Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy,Mystery Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery represents one of the last few gasps of creativity before Woody Allen’s career descended into self-parody (before he rebounded with Matchpoint). Made in 1993, Allen would follow up this murder mystery caper with a few bright spots (Bullets Over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry) though, more often than not, he would spend the rest of the 1990’s, and much of the 2000’s producing disappointing dreck (Celebrity, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Anything Else). Manhattan Murder Mystery isn’t his strongest film, but it is one of his most entertaining.

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton (together in over a decade) star as Larry and Carol Lipton, a middle-aged couple who both feel they are in a rut with each other. Larry is a book editor and Carol is an aspiring restauranteur. They befriend an elderly couple in their building (Jerry Adler and Lynn Cohen), and are thrown into a whodunit when the wife dies suddenly. Carol, spurred by the monotony of her life, feels the wife’s death is suspicious, and views the husband as the prime suspect. Encouraged by a close divorced friend, Ted (Alan Alda), who has the hots for Carol, she begins to investigate. Jealous of Ted’s amorous interest in his wife, Larry, reluctantly participates in the case, as well. A sensuous author, Marcia Fox (Angelica Huston) also joins in on the adventure.

The film is a trivial bit of fun as well as a nostalgic homage to the b-movie noirs of the 1950’s. The story was actually a subplot originally meant for Annie Hall, but it didn’t make it in the final cut of the Oscar-winning classic. Expanded, the story isn’t as memorable, funny or profound as the older film, but still offers reliant laughs. The mystery plot is surprisingly stable and engaging.

The cast is ideal. Allen does his patented nebbish role and now he can do it in his sleep. Alda is appropriately slimey, playing against type. Huston also offers a sexy performance, as well. Keaton subbed for Mia Farrow at the last minute, because the latter had to drop out due to the marital discord at the time. While the legal horror may have been disastrous for his personal life, it did wonders for his movies, because Keaton is a find, playing beautifully off Allen. They click together and work off each other in perfect harmony — it’s wonderful to see two such great clowns bouncing off each other; Allen does well playing the straight man to Keaton’s comic foil.

Manhattan Murder Mystery won’t be listed in the Allen canon, but it is a great reminder at how reliant a quip-writer Allen really is.

1 thought on “Manhattan Murder Mystery”

  1. I think that Woody was trying for a 1930’s style “Thin Man” type of movie with this one. I agree with you that it’s far from his best work but it’s a lot better than some of his later work.

    I’d like to read your review of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY which is falling down on the floor hilarious from start to finish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post

Grumpy Old MenGrumpy Old Men

The 1993 romantic comedy Grumpy Old Men is distributed by Warner Bros.  Some of its stars include Jack Lemmon as John Gustafson, Walter Matthau as Max Goldman, Ann-Margret as Ariel