Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual references, thematic material and mild language
Running Time: 104 min.

Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Anjelica Huston, Joanna Gleason, Jerry Orbach, Claire Bloom
Small role: Frances Conroy, Nora Ephron, Daryl Hannah, Fred Melamed, Mercedes Ruehl
Director: Woody Allen

Screenplay: Woody Allen
Review published January 3, 2002

It's a bit infuriating when schmaltzy cornball crap like Dead Poets Society gets a Best Picture nomination from the Academy and great movies like Glory and this gem from Woody Allen (Radio Days, Hannah and Her Sisters) get left off the list. 

This one is a bit more serious than most of Allen's typical comic features, and stars Martin Landau (North by Northwest, Rounders) as Judah Rosenthal, an ophthalmologist who has been having a two year affair with a flight attendant (Huston, Prizzi's Honor) on the side.  Judah wants to end the stale affair, but Dolores (the flight attendant) believed Judah was going to leave his wife (Bloom, Clash of the Titans) to be with her and can't handle the rejection.  She tries to get a hold of Judah's wife to explain all, and Judah valiantly tries seemingly in vain to get her to keep quiet.  She even threatens to expose some questionable money shifting on Judah's part in the past when he was struggling financially.  Judah seeks out the help of his lowlife brother (Orbach, Dirty Dancing) who offers to "take care of it" for a price, and with no other solution in sight save to lose all he has built, Judah gives his bro the green light.

The movie also has another lesser story running concurrently which is a bit on the lighter side, starring Woody Allen as a struggling documentary filmmaker stuck in a loveless marriage which is being overshadowed by his wife's successful Hollywood producer brother.  He is hired to make a documentary about this brother-in-law he loathes, and in the process he falls for the woman he works with on the project.

Allen ties both storylines together, along with raising themes from Hollywood (vs. real life) and Greek tragedies (like Oedipus, also bringing up the "going blind" for ones sins theme).  Multi-textured overtones of religion and popular culture provides for a deep and profoundly moving film that ranks among Allen's very best.  Landau especially shines in a great performance under Allen's brilliant direction.  A heartbreaking tragedy juxtaposed with uproarious comedy with both working marvelously is not an eay endeavor, and credit Allen for pulling off the near impossible.  Must-see adult entertainment of the highest order.

Qwipster's rating

2002 Vince Leo