CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

(1989)
Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Angelica Huston, Jerry Orbach
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Reviewed by JB

     In what may be his most perfectly realized film, Woody Allen plays a small-time filmmaker who attempts to finance a documentary by directing a profile of his famous brother-in-law, a shallow television producer.  Meanwhile, Martin Landau plays a successful opthamologist whose two-year affair is threatening to destroy his marriage.  The two tales play out separately, connected only by theme, mood and one minor character who has a connection with both men.  The comic sections may be low on classic Allen one-liners ("The last time I was inside a woman was when I visited the Statue of Liberty"), but are still highly humorous, thanks to Allen, playing his usual nebbish, and Alan Alda, who brilliantly skewers his usual sympathetic "sensitive guy" image.  In the other half of the film, Landau was rightly nominated by the Academy for his portrayal of a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown from the choice he makes to keep his mistress (Huston) from blackmailing him.  Landau's work is some of the finest you will find in any Allen film and is clearly a precursor to his amazing, revelatory turn as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's ED WOOD several years later.  Unfortunately, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is the only Woody Allen film Landau has appeared in to date.

     CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS' ending may be chock full of Allen's usual 'God is Dead and I'm Not Feeling So Good Myself' fatalism, but as Landau says in their conversation, if you want a happy ending, you should see a Hollywood movie. 4 ½ - JB

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