Crimes and Misdemeanors

Year: 1989
Production Co: Jack Rollins & Charles H Joffe Productions
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Claire Bloom, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, Frances Conroy, Nora Ephron

Realising to myself I had to relate this twisted plot in this review made me sigh heavily – it's the kind of thing that's already been done better elsewhere. You might as well in fact just copy and paste from the 'plot' section of the Wikipedia page about the film. There's little depth or subtext or theme, it's all story.

Martin Landau is a successful ophthalmologist who's having an affair with Angelica Huston, who starts to realise he's never going to leave his wife and threatens to tell her about their affair, whereupon he goes to his creepy brother Jerry Orbach for help, who suggests putting a hit out on her. Appalled but seeing no other option, he reluctantly agrees while wrestling with his conscience by confiding in a patient who also happens to be a rabbi.

Meanwhile Allen is a failing documentary maker who spends his days taking his niece to classic movies instead of working and who can't stand his pompous brother in law Alan Alda, an egotistical but very successful TV producer. When he gives Allen the chance to make an ego-buffering film about his life story the latter has little choice but to agree, and while Alda drives him crazy the bright spot is the beautiful producer on his staff (Farrow) that Allen falls slowly but decisively in love with, despite being married himself.

What's much more interesting about the story and characters however is that this was years before any hint of the MeToo movement or the swirl of child molestation accusations that have dogged Allen in the years since his children Ronan and Dylan have become his most public enemies. Allen must be pining for the days when adultery was still funny and his marriage to Mia Farrow was still solid.

Watching it now over 30 years later his relationship with his on screen teenage niece and the constant themes of falling in love with everyone other than who you're with just feel skeezy. If you can switch that off and just go with it it's a classic Allen jam – not that it's a masterpiece of filmmaking, just that it has all the usual motifs of his career. The acting, cinematography and every other cinematic art form are just fodder for Allen to ruminate on how strange the human heart is.

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