Woody Allen ambitiously mixes his two favoured strains of cinema, melodrama and comedy, with mixed results in Crimes and Misdemeanours.
Two loosely linked stories here concern eye doctor Martin Landau and documentary director Allen, each facing moral dilemmas. The structural and stylistic conceit is that when Landau is onscreen, the film is dead serious, even solemn, while Allen’s own appearance onscreen signals hilarious satire and priceless one-liners.
Landau’s problem is simple: his mistress (Anjelica Huston, shrill in an underwritten role) threatens to go to his wife (Claire Bloom) and reveal all, including Landau’s previous embezzlement activities. At wit’s end, he seeks the assistance of his ne’er-do-well brother (Jerry Orbach), who orders up a hitman from out of town to waste Huston.
Meanwhile, Allen, unhappily married to Joanna Gleason, has fallen in love with TV documentary producer Mia Farrow, whom he meets while directing a TV docu profiling his enemy and brother-in-law, (Alan Alda). Alda is perfect casting as a successful TV comedy producer, whose pompous attitude and easy romantic victories with women (including Farrow) exasperate Allen. Though portrayed as filled with sour grapes and envy, Allen’s plight is basically sympathetic.
1989: Nomination: Best Director, Supp. Actor (Martin Landau), Original Screenplay