I finally watched a Woody Allen movie and I have to admit, I actually really liked it. The opening of Manhattan is perfect. It’s funny and provides a unique way of explaining why the film is in black and white and there are random splashes of Gershwin music throughout. These two elements make this film memorable and capture the softer side of Manhattan and life in general. Like Issac, I too romanticize New York, often imagining that it “pulsates to the great tunes of George Gershwin.” Okay. So maybe I would have replaced Gershwin with Broadway show tunes, but you catch my drift. The fluidity and easiness of Manhattan makes this film great and a joy to watch, especially considering the twisted lives of the main characters.
Manhattan follows Isaac, a 42-year-old writer, who is dating 17-year-old Tracy. However, things get slightly complicated when he takes an interest in Mary, his friend’s mistress. Woody Allen is hilarious and delivers his sarcastic comments, which are rife with cultural references, effortlessly. The same goes for Diane Keaton, who is excellent as the apparently self-confident, but really neurotic Mary. Keaton manages to make Mary a believable character who throws out numerous pompous culture references, but is simultaneously insecure beneath her tough exterior. While I don’t think Mariel Hemingway‘s performance as Tracy was Oscar worthy, she does a pretty good job. Her sweet demeanor, maturity, and yes, even her odd voice made her endearing and offered some sense into her “relationship” with Isaac. Nonetheless, I don’t think the role was much of a stretch seeing as she was around 18 when the film was made.
As for Tracy and Issac, I was surprised that this movie was able to keep me from finding their relationship totally disgusting. This is partially due to the fact that Isaac doesn’t take Tracy seriously and his lines imply that Allen is making fun of the situation himself. The utter ridiculousness of a teenage girl being in a relationship with an unattractive middle-aged man, as well as talking nonchalantly about how great their sex life is, made Tracy and Isaac’s romance seem ludicrous, and ultimately easier for me to digest in the context of the film. While the ending was a little iffy for me, I did like that Tracy decided to go to London despite Isaac’s attempt to stop her.
The fluidity and smoothness of this film, both in the plot and cinematography, are astounding. It felt as though I was simply observing real people as they did everyday things like buy groceries, but in the context of a story. The shots accommodate the normal actions of the characters, like walking down a street, instead of the other way around, allowing the film to seem effortless, almost like a strangely luxurious documentary. There are so many great scenes and lines in this film. The dialogue and jokes are sharp in almost every scene Keaton and Allen are in, particularly when they first meet; I love that Isaac jokingly chides Mary about being too cerebral, a trait I find quite annoying myself. The lighting in this film is also superb. The fact that it mimics real life lighting, makes for gorgeous scenes like in the planetarium, and adds to the feeling of realness that is evident throughout the film.
Manhattan is enchanting, providing both a charming story and an ode to Manhattan, as well as proving that everyone’s lives would be a little better if we had a magnificent soundtrack playing in the background.