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With: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Sam Waterston, Joanna Gleason, Jerry Orbach, Victor Argo, Daryl Hannah
Written by: Woody Allen
Directed by: Woody Allen
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/13/1989

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Gray Areas

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many consider Crimes and Misdemeanors to be Woody Allen's greatest movie, and certainly it's one of his most complex, smashing together funny and serious halves, but meshing them both with fascinating moral conundrums. Allen stars in the first half, as Cliff, an artistically truthful documentary filmmaker who reluctantly takes a job making a film about a hack sellout television producer, Lester (Alan Alda). Alda has some of the movie's best lines, preaching his rules for great comedy ("if it bends, it's funny... if it breaks, it's not funny"). Cliff falls for Lester's associate producer, Halley (Mia Farrow), and is flabbergasted when she prefers shallow Lester to deep Cliff.

In the other half, Martin Landau stars as Judah, a married man having an affair with a flight attendant, Dolores (Anjelica Huston). When it becomes clear that she's more serious than he is, she begins making threats. Judah decides to take drastic measures. During various points in the movie, characters are allowed to ruminate over their lives and decisions, especially during a poignant final scene in which Cliff and Judah meet. Some deeds are unpunished, while others are unrewarded, with no rhyme or reason. Unlike many of his other films, Allen allows for things to remain unsettled, making the movie all the more satisfying.

It was among Allen's more successful movies, earning about $18 million as well as three Oscar nominations: Best Screenplay and Best Director for Allen, and Best Supporting Actor for Landau.

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