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On the heels of Annie Hall, the Oscar-winning romantic comedy that rocketed Woody Allen to the front ranks of American filmmakers, Manhattan continued Allen's romantic obsessions in a slightly darker, more pessimistic vein. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a TV comedy writer sick of the pap he is forced to churn out and harboring dreams of being the great American novelist. His love life is in barbed-wire territory: he is tormented by his second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), a lesbian who has written a tell-all book about their ... (Full plot summary below)
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On the heels of Annie Hall, the Oscar-winning romantic comedy that rocketed Woody Allen to the front ranks of American filmmakers, Manhattan continued Allen's romantic obsessions in a slightly darker, more pessimistic vein. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a TV comedy writer sick of the pap he is forced to churn out and harboring dreams of being the great American novelist. His love life is in barbed-wire territory: he is tormented by his second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), a lesbian who has written a tell-all book about their marriage, and he is dating teenager Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), to whom he refuses to commit, and keeps hinting that a breakup may be imminent. Isaac's disillusioned (and married) best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) has begun an affair with the cerebral writer Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton). While Isaac makes a last minute, sink-or-swim decision to quit his job and devote all of his time to book writing, and neurotically moans about what the lack of a full time job will do to him (My parents won't have as good of a seat in the synagogue, he moans. They'll be far away from God... away from the action) Yale is crippled by his lack of resolve, as indicated by his inability to leave his wife Emily (Anne Byrne). Meanwhile, Isaac and Mary) begin to fall for one another. Tracy then tells Isaac the basic truth that none of his hung-up friends and past lovers fully realizes: You have to have a little more faith in people. Manhattan is both a seriocomic dissection of perpetually dissatisfied New Yorkers and an ode to the city itself, filmed in glorious black-and-white by ace cinematographer Gordon Willis, and set to a score of rhapsodic George Gershwin music.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
A neurotic New York TV writer is distraught when his wife leaves him for another woman, and to make matters worse, she writes a book about her failed marriage.
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|Time Vincent Canby What happens is not the substance of Manhattan as much as how it happens. The movie is full of moments that are uproariously funny and others that are sometimes shattering for the degree in which they evoke civilized desolation.|
|Empire David Parkinson One of Woody's most aesthetically gorgeous films as well as his classic love-hate letter to the city of his soul.|
|TV Guide Staff (Not Credited) Deft comedy set in a neurotic town. People may argue about the relative merits of Annie Hall vis-a-vis Manhattan, which is a better and more fully realized film. By this time Allen had forsworn the glib one-liner and spent more time developing well-rounded characters.|
|ReelViews James Berardinelli If Manhattan was only a romantic comedy, it would be a very good one, but the fact that the movie has so much more ambition than the "average" entry into the genre makes it an extraordinary example of the fusion of entertainment and art. This is Allen in peak form, deftly mastering and combining the diverse threads of romance, drama, and comedy - and all against a black-and-white backdrop that makes us wonder why color is such a coveted characteristic in modern motion pictures.|
|The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Jay Scott Never before has Allen been able to integrate comedy and pathos as deftly as he does in Manhattan. [28 Apr 1979, p. 17]|
|Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert this is a very good movie. Woody Allen is ... Woody, sublimely. Diane Keaton gives us a fresh and nicely edged New York intellectual. And Mariel Hemingway deserves some kind of special award for what's in some ways the most difficult role in the film.|