Manhattan Murder Mystery

Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Joy Behar, Ron Rifkin. (1993, PG, 104 min.)

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Aug. 20, 1993

With the exceptions of Manhattan and Annie Hall, I always like Woody Allen more when he tries to do less (i.e., Broadway Danny Rose more than Crimes and Misdemeanors). Husbands and Wives proved almost unendurable, not because it was haunted by the ghost of Woody and Mia present but because the relentless Jean-Luc Godardian camera work was both inappropriate and almost, literally, nauseating. In Manhattan Murder Mystery, the actor Allen is again teamed up with Diane Keaton and writer/director Allen provides them with perfect material. As if William Powell were back with Myrna Loy or Gracie Allen with George Burns, Keaton and Allen revel in each other's presence. Their verbal timing and comic use of space (watching them maneuver around each other is funnier than most stand-ups) is seamless. They play classic long-married New Yorkers who accidently meet a just-retired couple (Adler and Cohen) across the hall, dropping in for coffee. A few days later the wife suddenly dies and Keaton becomes more and more convinced that the neighbor's husband did her in. The brilliance here is in the dialogue and characterization. The plot is clever and involving, and best not talked about. But we get to indulge in classic Allen -- adult conversation at its sharpest and wittiest, never better than when centered around Allen and Keaton. Although Allen resists her interest, their recently divorced friend (Alda) encourages Keaton, on whom he has always had a crush. Allen meanwhile deals with a tough writer (Huston) whom he is trying to set up with Alda. The acting is consistently inspired (Huston is simply from another -- positively celestial -- planet) and Allen controls his more elaborate cinematic impulses. Filled with homages to the great detective films, the plot is simply a series of charming conceits. The play is about relationships: what we are and who we are and who we are with each other. It insists on mystery as a vehicle of possibility and, for Allen, is remarkably optimistic. Fast and funny, it makes you wish this would-be American master was more often lightweight.

More Woody Allen Films
Café Society
A lesser Woody Allen film, but not without its pleasures

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 29, 2016

Irrational Man
Joaquin Phoenix plots the perfect crime in Woody Allen's new charmer

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 7, 2015

More by Louis Black
Page Two – Alex Jones: Demon Hunter
Page Two – Alex Jones: Demon Hunter
“Clinton and Obama stink of sulfur, so they must be demons”

Oct. 21, 2016

Page Two – BFI: Blaze Foley Inside
Page Two – BFI: Blaze Foley Inside
11 verses in search of a song

Oct. 14, 2016


Manhattan Murder Mystery, Woody Allen, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Joy Behar, Ron Rifkin

This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)