Known primarily for his comedic works, Woody Allen digs into drama with the 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors. The film which is darker in tone and less about sex and love than many of his other films, is a success and easily one of the better Allen films I’ve seen.
Keeping with tradition, this Wood Allen film has more than one storyline throughout the film. Our main storyline is with Judah played by Martin Landau. He’s a successful Ophthalmologist who is cheating on his wife with a young and unstable Dolores Paley, played by Anjelica Houston. Judah seems to have everything so why he throws it all away for a fling with this woman is really an examination of the core of man. Judah begins to learn just how unstable Dolores really is when she sends letters, calls his home, and makes it very clear if he doesn’t tell his wife soon about them, then she will. She even brings up a questionable accounting practice that would ruin his reputation as a man and as a husband.
Our other storyline is about Woody Allen’s character Cliff, a struggling filmmaker who is assigned the job of documenting his brother-in-law, the widely successful Lester played by Alan Alda. Lester is an annoying television personality who is also responsible for pitching new ideas it seems. While on the set of this farce, Cliff meets Halley Reed, played by Mia Farrow, a producer of the film. The two instantly like each other and spend quite a bit of time together. The only problem is Cliff is married and Halley seems to be falling for the womanizing Lester.
In another film that I don’t want to spoil the hook for, Crimes and Misdemeanors is about just that. There is a murder, a cover-up, broken hearts and loves lost. It was nice to see in this film the lead being played by Martin Landau. I’m not tremendously familiar with the man’s work although I recognized him instantly. He was fantastic as the successful man who risked everything. What was a nice tough is Allen noted throughout this adultery that Judah was much older and that he was fit for an older man. It’s those script touches that sets this film apart for me from something like Vertigo. While Vertigo has a relationship that can be seen as similar, there is no mention of Jimmy Stewart being much older and that felt needed for the movie. The storyline of Judah and his potential to get caught in this affair is revisited by Allen in the 2005 drama Match Point, my favorite drama by Allen. It’s easy to see this storyline made into a movie on it’s own and set in London and that movie would be Match Point.
In a nice touch, not everything is happily ever after in this film. A lot of the Woody Allen films end up ending in a Hollywood manner but this is not one of them. One character gets what he deserves and one of them gets away with murder. It’s really a fantastic film with a stellar cast an impeccable acting. One of my favorites from Woody.