Movie Review: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and MisdemeanorsDenisa and I returned for another round of Woody Allen the other day, this time going for Crimes and Misdemeanors. I think one of the things I like most about a Woody Allen film is that I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get. It might be zany antics, it might be an in-depth character piece, it might be a crazy reimagining of a Asian spy movie, it might be a new favorite film of mine–it might be all of them rolled up in one. True, it might also be boring or bad–he doesn’t have a perfect batting average, but who does?

Crimes and Misdemeanors would be a film that leans much more strongly to the serious drama side of Allen. In fact, I read that he felt like he had been too nice to his characters in Hannah and Her Sisters, so he made this film to fix that. It tells the story of two men whose paths only casually intersect. On the one hand, you have Judah (played by Martin Landau), an ophthalmologist who’s gotten himself in a tight spot: he’s been having an affair with an imbalanced woman who’s now decided to expose the affair. Judah doesn’t want that to happen, and he takes steps to avoid it. On the other hand, you have Clifford (played by Allen), a film maker who really wants to make a documentary on a philosophy professor, but ends up making one on his successful TV producer brother-in-law (whom he hates).

One of these men commits serious crimes throughout the movie. The other goes for the misdemeanors. It’s an exploration of the results of these actions on the men and their lives–how they deal with them, how it affects their happiness, and how it affects the people around them. One of the things I liked most about the movie is that there is no guarantee that awful actions in life will make you miserable, and good actions will make you happy. Consequences–at least on earth–can seem like they have little relation to the cause, sometimes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, although perhaps “enjoy” is a bad word to use. It left me thinking for the next few days. It’s not a movie to watch to escape your problems–it’s a film to watch to think about how you deal with them. A strong three and a half stars from me, and highly recommended. If you’ve seen it, please share your thoughts. I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but go ahead and post spoilers below if it helps the discussion.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Crimes and Misdemeanors”

  1. Jodie and I watched this movie last night. I loved the Seder dinner scene, and must confess that I have had similar conversations in my own mind at various times in my life. What intrigues me is that I don’t think the typical lds family ever has a similar conversation. I think we’re too afraid to express such ideas outloud.
    I have also often wondered about the flip side of Clifford’s experience. Why do some who are as guilty of misdemeanors never seem to suffer, while others can’t seem to catch a break? Fate/consequences/experience cannot possibly correspond precisely with the degree or quantity of misdemeanors

  2. Interesting observations. I’m not sure how many LDS families–or families in general–have had the kind of open communication about morality and life and death that the Seder scene presents. Certainly not at such a large family gathering, although perhaps it all depends on the family you grew up in.

    And as for the other point, I think CS Lewis’s quote from a few days ago fits it perfectly: “The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” From a spiritual, eternal perspective, Judah is in really hot water. Clifford? Not so much.

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