Sunday, March 25, 2012

Manhattan - Movie Review

Been long pending on my list of must-watch movies from good ol Sagar's collection, 'Manhattan' is quintessential Woody Allen. It is probably one that is close to Allen's heart as well as he lives there and spends almost all his time in New York (he rarely moves out apparently). Allen plays Issac, a twice divorced 42 year old comic writer (a job he takes on often in his roles again) who impulsively quits his job to write a book about New York. If that is not enough he has a 17 year old girlfriend with whom he has great sex, and his ex-wife Jill, the second one (Meryl Streep), who has left him for a lesbian relationship,  is writing a confessional book on her marriage and divorce, much to his distress. In a scene that is typical of Allen's movies, he is first spotted at a cosy restaurant dining with his best friend Yale and his wife Emily, and his 17 year old girl Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) having an animated discussion. Conversation is typical of an Allen movie, rich, honest and funny in his self-deprecating and neurotic manner. Yale confesses post dinner to Allen (in on of those long walking shots of Allen) that he is actually seeing another woman Mary (Diane Keaton) and Isaac is shocked that Yale is cheating on Emily, a couple who he thinks are perfect and in love for the past 12 years.

When Yale introduces his girl friend Mary to Isaac and Tracy, Isaac takes an instant dislike to Mary's views and opinions which are exactly opposite to his. However he meets her later at a fund raising event and they go out for a walk and realise that they have a good conversation going. Issac however has no romantic inclinations with Mary. His relationship with the young school girl Tracy bothers him a bit and he encourages her to go on with her life as he is too old for her. Tracy however wants a long term commitment from him. Mariel Hemingway as Tracy is great, understated, as a clear thinking 17 year old who has much more clarity and maturity than her 42 year old lover.

Meanwhile Mary breaks off her relationship with Yale, because he is a married man who is dithering between his wife and his lover. Yale goes back to Emily and encourages Issac to see Mary. The two get into a relationship pretty soon and are almost inseparable. Tracy meanwhile gets a scholarship to study in England and asks Isaac to go to London with her. Isaac refuses and tells her he is seeing someone else, someone older. Tracy is heartbroken.

Meanwhile Jill, Isaac's ex-wife has released her book with several embarrassing references to her marriage with Isaac. The book is a hit and she also sells movie rights. Just when everything seems to be going right Mary confesses she still loves Yale and they get together. Isaac confronts Yale, Emily and runs to Tracy finally. Tracy is leaving for London and asks him to wait another six months asking him to have some faith.

'Manhattan' has all of what I see as Allen trademark shots and stuff - restaurants, conversations in restaurants, visits to museums, art discussions, cinema halls, watching exotic foreign movies, references to Groucho Marx, Ingmar Bergman and Paris, self deprecating humour (good fun), several bedroom scenes (with no sex but loads of conversation), fragile relationships and a steady witty dialogue that by now one would have guessed belongs to the intellectual as well as the pseudo intellectual. But it all comes together brilliantly and captures the mood, the people, perfectly and makes one want to be part of something like that despite the uncertainty, the unpredictability and pain that always follows Allen's characters despite their light hearted and seemingly shallow existences (as opposed to the heavy and serious characters one gets to see). One feels for the characters, identifies with the city that is the central character, and its a fine watch. Go for it.

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