Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Woody Allen's first entry in his trilogy of guilt-filled murder sagas ("Match Point" and "Cassandra's Dream" being the other two) features two stories: the first about a struggling independent filmmaker named Cliff Stern (Allen) who is offered to do a biography on his corny TV producer brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda), and the second featuring a successful opthamologist named Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) who is after his mistress (Anjelica Huston) not only for the reason of mending an infidelity, but also because she has information about him embezzling money. The second one sounds a lot like "Match Point", because it is basically the same story (although "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was released in 1989 and "Match Point" was released in 2005), as "Match Point" features Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a man caught between his wife (Emily Mortimer) and his actress mistress (Scarlett Johanson). The story about Stern also involves relationships while married: while shooting the bio, he meets Halle Reed (Mia Farrow) who is smart, funny, and also in dislike of Lester. Stern is unhappy in his marriage to Wendy (Johanna Gleason of "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Heartburn") and falls in love with Reed. Meanwhile, Rosenthal is decides to go through with getting rid of his mistress via his brother (Jerry Orbach) and, such as other characters in Woody Allen films, such as Colin Farrell's Terry in "Cassandra's Dream" and Rhys-Meyers Chris, he feels guilty, as the words of his rabbi Ben (Sam Waterson) weigh down on him. He goes through the routine of other Allen characters such as visiting a detective but, like the others, gets away clean. On the other side, after he compares Lester and Mussolini and shows personal footage and pretty much shows he doesn't understand what an "upbeat biography" is, he is fired, and then, to add to it all, he loses Reed in a "Manhattan"-style manner: to London. But, the bomb falls in later: Lester and Reed are engaged and Stern is down and out. At the very end, the movie finally comes full circle when the two leads meet and greet and Rosenthal discusses his "murder plot" for a movie, which is obviously the same exact thing that happened. And then, it's over. Now to the technical stuff: Landau is good, but does not deserve the Oscar-nomination he got. Woody gets by just being Woody, and although a lot of the humor in the Stern half is very funny and may even match up to "Annie Hall" ("The first woman I was inside was the Statue of Liberty"), it gets lost inside of the double plot structure, that winds up being manic-depressive. What I mean is every time Landau appears it is depressing and every time Allen appears, the jokes pile up, and it doesn't work. The high point of the movie is Alan Alda as Lester, embracing his goofy side and providing us with a satirical, purposely one-dimensional character that actually was hilarious. The music was also very nice. But the cold hard fact (and why "Match Point" worked and this didn't) is that comedy and drama can't function if they are put right next to each other and cross-referenced again and again repeatedly at nearly the same time. B

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