“Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993)

By Daniella Nichinson, Staff Writer

Everyone enjoys the delight of acting as a private investigator, deciphering clues as the film proceeds, and when it is a Woody Allen film, hilarity ensues along the ride. “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” which reunites Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, follows an aging married couple, Larry (Allen) and Carol (Keaton), when they suspect that their next-door neighbor has murdered his wife. After a slew of serious films, “Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a refreshing comedy, reminiscent of Woody’s earlier slapstick works: it is Sherlock Holmes meets the Marx brothers.

We first meet Larry and Carol at a Rangers game, which Carol has only agreed to go to because Larry has agreed to go to the Wagner opera with her. An avid sports fan, Woody Allen naturally wants to show us the wonders of New York’s sports teams. It is clear that many of the views presented in his films are autobiographical, so what we see his characters doing are his own hobbies and interests.

Though a murder mystery may lend itself better to a gritty drama, Woody Allen does well in turning it into a lighthearted comedy that also pays homage to New York. Full of ‘20s and ‘30s jazz music, it takes us back to a time romanticized by Woody and a time that fits his perception of the city. Bobby Short’s recording of “I Happen to Like New York” opens the film, which infuses the rest of the story with a certain understanding that even though we are dealing with a tale of murder, we still have New York to remind us of a visible goodness.

Larry and Carol spend their days going to the opera and the theater. These types of outings are what attract Woody Allen to New York how he sees the life of an average New Yorker. The city is filled with culture and art and, in each of his films, Woody tries to showcase this to sometimes an exaggerated extent. His intentions are noble, though; through the medium of film, he is proclaiming his adoration for the city.

Carol’s desire to investigate the possible murder that has occurred stems from the blandness and the mundane nature of middle-age. When hiding out in their neighbor’s apartment or searching for clues, she experiences an exhilaration that she has not felt for years. After convincing Larry, the typical neurotic Woody Allen character, to play detective with her, the two find their marriage to be reborn and reinvigorated. This thrill is the same one that the city of New York provides us with, which Woody hopes to convince the audience of.

Woody Allen named “Manhattan Murder Mystery” as one of his own favorite films. It is clear why because it combines the tension of a crime story and the lively feel of a comedy driven by dialogue. The setting of New York acts as a perfect location for an unexpected murder, while also providing a cultural and romantic backdrop. Surprisingly, it ends on an inspiring note: Larry and Carol’s adrenaline-pumping excursion breathes new life into their marriage, just as the city constantly rejuvenates its inhabitants.


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