Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

by George Watches Things

***½

I had heard a lot about this Woody Allen fellow, but I had never seen one of his films. Until last night.

Woody stars as Larry Lipton, a neurotic, complicated man in his fifties whose marriage seems to be falling apart (although the film fumbles around with whether it is or it is not). Carol (Diane Keaton), his wife, is just as strange as her husband, and acts all the more so when she decides that her neighbor has been murdered. She sets off to find some sort of evidence with their recent divorcee friend Ted (Alan Alda).

Other than a truly out-of-the-ordinary climax, Manhattan Murder Mystery manages tension very, very well. You root for these main characters, and you really hope that the Liptons don’t get caught snooping around their neighbor’s apartment. But unfortunately, just when you feel like they’re rekindling their love of old… just when you have reason to hope that Carol doesn’t do something dramatic… the film makes the Liptons mad at each other, again. It really is a shame.

There are just enough hilarious one-liners (my favorite came when they find a dead body in a hotel room: “Oh my God, she’s dead!” “Are you sure? Try giving her the present!“) to make up for the faults, though. And the laugh-out-loud, slapsticky phone call between the “group” and Mr. House doesn’t hurt. If this were an actual murder mystery, instead of a rom-com farce, I would be slightly upset with the expositional ending. But since it’s not, I’m not.

The thing MMM does best isn’t make you laugh (although it’s very good at that), but rather explore relationships. Ted and the Liptons are about the same age, but we see how different the stages they’re in are. The Liptons caught a second wind in their love, but Ted is starting over again. At the long dinner scene (featuring Anjelica Huston), we see these two different groups of three people forming within the table. During the beginning, we have these three frantic people (Larry, Carol, and Ted) discussing this murder that they know happened with the calm Huston character, Marcia. Then, later in that same scene, after this calm Marcia explains what happened, as well as what’s going to happen next, we see Carol getting jealous, as Larry was of Ted earlier.

This was only my first Woody Allen experience, but I will be coming back for more. Watch out, Netflix.

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