Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 275)

Okay so I’ve only watched Woody Allen movies because of this list, and I’m already seeing a lot of repeated themes. It’s kind of funny watching this movie after seeing a discussion online where someone wrote that people shouldn’t bother with forced diversity in their fiction. I wonder what Woody Allen would say that that – if you assume that showing Jewish people and customs is diverse and not the norm.

Anyway, it’s actually a pretty compelling movie. I dreaded it being like Love and Death but it’s not actually a parody which was a relief. Instead it’s an overly intellectual sort of romantic comedy. If people in rom coms talked like existential philosophers and cheated on their partners with no remorse. That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it – I did. The characters are all interesting and have a little depth to them, the story is twisty and unexpected and I enjoyed all the references to old movies.

Does it make me love the people? Woody Allen’s character is pretty off putting, Clifford, much like Harry in When Harry Met Sally, makes everything that happens around him about him. His sister has a horrifying hookup through a personal ad and he makes it about his failing marriage. The girl he’s into (outside his marriage) gets a great career opportunity and he goes sad sack because he won’t get to see her for four months. This character’s only redeeming quality is that he’s lovely to his niece.

I liked Angelica Houston, not that her character is groundbreaking but she is played by Angelica Houston so there’s a gravitas and a charisma there. Mia Farrow’s Halley is pretty adorable even if she exists in a world where men just lust after and adore her and try and ignore that she has stuff she wants to get done. Alan Alda is the jerky jerk but he’s so charismatic as well.

Bechdel test: Yes, there’s a tiny interchange between Jenny and Wendy where Wendy says ‘don’t you have homework to do?’ and Jenny says ‘yes’.

Best line:

Lester: Comedy is tragedy plus time!

Professor Levy: You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.

State of Mind: Its not the joyful nostalgia of Radio Days, and it’s not the cringe-fest of Love and Death. This is a good middle ground kind of Allen film. I’m not sure it’s one I’d seek out to watch again, but I didn’t hate it the way I feared I might. It’s got some interesting things to say about the human experience and decisions and how we define ourselves, but I kind of wish Allen would get out of his own way and let the script breathe a little rather than being SO intellectual ALL the time. Good soundtrack.

Watched movie count

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