Manhattan (1979) Review

Manhattan is a movie in which nothing too exciting really happens. It isn’t a romantic comedy but is a movie about love and relationships. It isn’t a quirky sideways look at relationships or a comment on relationships in society today, although director Woody Allen does make some comments on society within the movie. Manhattan is just about a man falling in love with the wrong/inappropriate person.

It feels like it shouldn’t be interesting. Woody Allen’s character Isaac is not a man you can root for. He isn’t a lovable rogue who is just unlucky in love or a funny guy who uses humour as a charming mechanism. Allen’s Isaac is pretentious, self-involved and at times obnoxious character without the redeeming characteristic which make you want to see the character do well.

It is a collection of unlikeable characters

This is where Woody Allen’s writing helps drive the interest for the story forward. He has created a character and situation that you find yourself interested in. It is a twisted love story, involving teenage girls, mistresses and two best friends who seem to disregard each other’s feelings for the first chance of sex or female interest.

It doesn’t over-simplify these ideas either. This is a movie about complicated relationships. It isn’t a case of people living happily ever after and in some cases you don’t want them too. The actions of Allen’s Isaac mean that in the end you don’t want him to find love, he doesn’t deserve it, and like many great movies, the ending is just ambiguous enough the audience to not be too sure what happens next.

Woody Allens’ Isaac doesn’t deserve happiness

It isn’t just Isaac’s character who isn’t exactly likable but that isn’t a criticism on their performance. Diane Lane plays Mary, the mistress in question, and when the audience first meets her she couldn’t be more pretentious herself. Allen lets the relationship develop naturally though and there aren’t any huge grand gestures or magical moments that bring the characters together. A rain storm and an observatory are enough to start sowing the seeds.

The love story is enough to keep interest but Manhatten isn’t a funny Woody Allen movie. There are clever moments and the odd Woody Allen rant but other than a very awkward date involving the love triangle three, the movie doesn’t offer the same clever Allen comedy that has been present before.

There are moments but it is hardly a “smash-comedy”

This means that we are left with a straight story that twists in some interesting ways without being completely engaging. You watch to see the story unfold but never feel like you are gripped or totally interested in what will happen to a collection of characters who don’t deserve any real happiness in the long term.

Overall, Woody Allen has written a movie which shows a “real-life” love story involving characters who don’t deserve it. The performances are very good and writing is never forced or cliche but subsequently there are no huge moments or engaging plot points which really keep you totally invested in the story.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

This was part of my Greatest Film Directors Blindspot series. To see the rest click here!

A “real” love story

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