The central story--a neo-noir of sorts--follows a fortuitous ophthalmologist (Martin Landau, all sweat and grimaces) who faces the prospect of his obsessed mistress (Anjelica Huston) ruining his life by telling his family of their affair. Desperate, the doctor hires his slimy criminal brother (Jerry Orbach) to eliminate the situation, and then suffers overwhelming regret afterwards. The flip tale is more typical Allen. Funnier and lighter, it focuses on an impossible romance between Allen's character and Halley Reed, a film producer played by Mia Farrow. Between Allen and his Hollywood fantasy stands his brother-in-law (Alan Alda, perfectly cast as an obnoxious, successful sitcom producer), who also desires Halley. Allen is Landau's opposite: an honest, struggling documentarian who cares nothing about fortune, suffers in a loveless marriage, and is surrounded by triumphant phonies. The nice-guys-finish-last moral may be as contrived as it is devastating. Yet, when Landau and Allen finally share a final scene during a wedding, their faces, subtle body movements, and contrasting fortunes somehow suggest that indeed God may be blind, and if not, the deity has a very sick sense of humor. --Dave McCoy
Amazing performances by the entire cast. Great writing and direction. Give it a watch and you'll love it.
"Crimes and Misdemeanors" (an obvious nod to Fyodor Dostoyevsky) is Allen's most engrossing quest for moral order in the universe, which quest leaves him -- and the viewer -- utterly bereft.
However, unlike the bleak "Interiors" or Allen's hilarious send-up on impending death being the impetus for finding God in "Hannah and Her Sisters," Allen's treatment of God, morality and free will is multi-faceted, and doesn't come to any pat answers.
In fact, it is Allen's ambivalent contemplation of religion and ethics that conservative critics find lacking at best, or disingenuous at worst. I see it differently: Agree or disagree with him, Allen is an atheist who is nonetheless tormented by the conclusion he has reached that there is no God. His is no knee-jerk atheism, as he has clearly thought through the philosophical issues involved, wavering between Nietzschean will to power and outright denial, to existentialist reluctance in the face of the ultimate meaningless of life beyond the here-and-now.
"Crimes and Misdemeanors" is peopled by a sterling cast, whose lives and choices are in direct conflict and contrast with one another; Yet, all speak with one voice, in Allen's exquisitely economical and pointed dialogue.
Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau, in the role of a lifetime, so perfectly is the dialogue tailored to his cadence of voice and gestures), like Job, is a man who has everything he could ever want. Unlike Job, when he sees his wealth and seemingly ideal family life (with wife Claire Bloom) jeopardized, he turns his back on God.
The catalyst for Judah's life crisis is Dolores (Angelica Huston), a lonely airline stewardress with whom he's having more than a fling.Read more ›