“Chapter one: He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved…”
A divorced writer (Woody Allen) dating a mature high schooler (Mariel Hemingway) finds himself smitten by the pseudo-pretentious lover (Diane Keaton) of his married best friend (Michael Murphy).
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary admits that Manhattan — which he labels “perceptive, witty, [and] masterful” — is his “favorite Woody Allen film”; while I can’t quite agree, there’s no mistaking its status as one of Allen’s finest explorations of New Yorkers’ “insecurities, phobias, [and] quirkiness”. Reviewers at the time (including Peary) were clearly impressed by evidence of Allen’s “growing maturity… as a filmmaker”, with Peary himself noting that Allen finally allows his alter-ego character to be “mean to someone”, “unfair”, and “not the victim”. Ironically, however, this brutal honesty is exactly what makes Manhattan somewhat unpleasant to watch, given that we can clearly see the mistake Isaac (Allen) is making in breaking up with his “sweet, mature” girlfriend (Mariel Hemingway) who “loves him dearly” — if, that is, we’ve gotten over our initial discomfort at their enormous age discrepancy (and stopped wondering why Hemingway’s parents never appear on the scene to have a say in the matter). Diane Keaton is perfectly cast as the elusive object of Allen’s affections, but unlike in Annie Hall (1977), her character here is ultimately too annoying to enjoy. My favorite scenes — other than those which simply showcase Gordon Willis’ gorgeous b&w shots of Manhattan — are those in which Allen interacts with his ex-wife, Meryl Streep, whose hyper-kinetic movement (she never stays still) reveals her intense discomfort at being around Allen even for a few minutes.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A truly heartfelt homage to New York City
- Mariel Hemingway as Tracy
- Meryl Streep as Allen’s bitter ex-wife
- Gordon Willis’s stunning b&w cinematography
- The lyrical Gershwin score
Yes, as one of Allen’s early masterpieces.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)