Along with Deconstructing Harry
which would follow seven years later, this is Woody Allen's most somber comedy-drama, as well as his most ambitious film of the 1980s. Allen weaves together two central stories about very different groups of Manhattanites, linking them through a mutual friend, a rabbi (Sam Waterston) who's going blind. This image is key to the sometimes ponderous, often clever musings on faith, morals, and vision (or lack thereof) that obsess his deeply troubled and unhappy characters. At its center, the film explores people who, through lack of religious conviction or arrogance, rationalize their awful, selfish acts by presuming that God couldn't possibly be watching.
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
"Poignant, Penetrating [And] Scathingly Hilarious" (Long Beach Press Telegram), Crimes And Misdemeanors Is A Deftly Rendered Tale About The Complexity Of Human Choices And The Moral Microcosms They Represent. Showcasing Allen'S Brilliant Grasp Of The Link Between The Funny And The Fatal, His 19Th Movie Is "One Of The Watershed Films Of His Career" (Los Angeles Times). Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) Is An Idealistic Filmmaker Until He'S Offered A Lucrative Job Shooting Aflattering Profile Of A Pompous Tv Producer (Alan Alda). Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) Is The Pillar Of His Community Until He Learns That His Ex-Mistress (Anjelica Huston) Plans To Expose His Financial And Extramarital Misdeeds. As Cliff Chooses Between Integrity And Selling Out, And Judah Decides Between The Counsel Of His Rabbi (Sam Waterston) And The Murderous Advice Of His Mobster Brother (Jerry Orbach), Each Man Must Examine His Own Morality, And Make An Irrevocable Decisionthat Willchange Everyone'S Lives Forever.