Tag Archives: Diane Keaton

Manhattan (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Writer has relationship issues.

Isaac (Woody Allen) is an unemployed TV writer who’s currently dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) a 17-year-old girl, but he feels guilty about this and thinks it’s only a matter of time before she moves on to someone else that is more her age. In the meantime he begins seeing Mary (Diane Keaton) who is the mistress to his best friend Yale (Michael Murphy). Eventually Isaac falls for Mary, but she then goes back to Yale forcing Isaac to beg Tracy to come back to him even as she’s prepares to go off to London to study acting.

Although this film became a critical darling I agree more with Allen himself who considers this to be the least favorite out of all of the movies he’s directed. The much ballyhooed black-and-white cinematography is a detriment especially when it shows the fireworks going off above the skyline, which if done in color would’ve been vibrant, but here it’s less than thrilling. The film also doesn’t give you much of a feel for the city since all it does is give brief shots of the skyscrapers and never any of its eclectic neighborhoods, shops, street life, or people. Looking at various photos of the city in Wikipedia gives one a far better visual taste of Manhattan then this film ever does and the George Gershwin score has unfortunately lost its uniqueness since United Airlines used it for many years for its ad campaign and I kept thinking of that the whole time it gets played here.

Allen’s trip with Keaton to a planetarium is interesting visually and their facial expressions during a visit to a concert is amusing, but otherwise the storyline dealing with their budding romance is boring and predictable. It’s fun to see, and a testament to Keaton’s great acting ability,  her playing a completely different type of person than the one she did just two years earlier in Annie Hall, but the character itself is off-putting and not someone most men would want to warm-up to. Maybe it’s the way she thinks that just because she’s from Philadelphia that makes her or anyone else from there morally superior, which I realize is meant to be amusing, but I didn’t find it that way mainly because I know people in real-life who are actually like that.

Allen’s visits with his ex-wife, played by Meryl Streep doesn’t jive either because I could not believe that they were ever compatible enough to ever have gotten married in the first place.  It’s also weird that her new partner Connie (Karen Ludwig) remains so civil and calm when in Allen’s presence since he apparently tried at one time to run her over with a car, which to me would make her not want to be anywhere near him, or even allow him into her home.

Allen’s relationship with Hemingway is the film’s only interesting aspect. Some of course may consider this to be controversial due to the wide age differences between the two although technically in the state of New York the age of consent is 17, so in the eyes of the law it was legal even though the characters themselves amusingly don’t seem aware of this. What I liked though was that Hemingway, despite being so young, comes off as the mature one in the relationship and when they’re shown walking side-by-side she is actually taller, which I found to be the funniest part of the whole movie. She also does a very convincing cry, which isn’t easy.

Unfortunately the relationship also leaves open a plethora of questions that the movie never bothers to answer. For instance where are her parents and what do they think of her living with a 42-year-old man? What do her friends think of Allen and what exactly does she see in this scrawny, whiny little man to fall-in-love with him anyways?

Supposedly her character is based on actress Stacey Nelkin who had a on-going relationship with Allen for 8 years starting when she was 16, but that made more sense because she was a young would-be starlet who most likely was mesmerized by Allen as a well-established director and who she probably saw as being her ticket to possibly breaking into the business, but here Isaac is an unemployed nobody yammering incessantly about things like Ingmar Bergman, which is something most teens can’t get into, so again I ask what does this Hemingway character see in this guy that would make her want to move in with him?

I’ve been a fan of many of Allen’s other films especially his comedies from the early 70’s and some of his dramas too, but this one left me cold. I felt that way when I first saw it over 20 years ago and nothing changed upon the second viewing as it seems to be cramming in three diametrically different storylines giving it kind of a jumbled narrative instead of just focusing on one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 18, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Woody Allen

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

The Good Mother (1988)

good-mother

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: She losses her daughter.

Anna (Diane Keaton) is a frigid woman who divorces her husband Brian (James Naughton) of many years and gets joint custody of their 6-year-old daughter Molly (Asia Vieira). After spending some time being single she meets up with an artist named Leo (Liam Neeson) who opens her up to a whole new sexual awakening. Her new liberated lifestyle affects her daughter as well. When Molly catches Leo getting out of the shower naked she inquires if she can touch his penis, which he allows and then later she crawls into bed with the couple as they make love. When Brian hears about this he demands full custody, which pits Anna against Leo as she fights the system to keep her daughter.

Keaton’s performance is the best thing as she plays the mother role for the third time in a decade and the exact reverse predicament of the character that she portrayed just before doing this one where she got stuck with a child that she didn’t want while here she loses one. I enjoyed Neeson’s Irish accent and Vieira is cute while it’s great seeing old-timers Ralph Bellamy and Teresa Wright in supporting roles.

Leonard Nimoy’s direction is solid for the most part. He was just coming off tremendous success with his earlier hit 3 Men and a Baby, so it was nice to see him take a creative challenge by tackling a different genre.  The story’s sensitive subject matter  is handled well including most importantly the scene showing the girl in bed with the two adults although the various other moments showing Anna’s and Leo’s intimacy is a little uncomfortable, but still captured tastefully without ever feeling that it is being overtly erotic.

The film’s biggest failing is the story itself. Although based on the best-selling novel by Sue Miller it doesn’t have enough twists to be compelling or enough of a visual quality to be cinematic. Too much time is spent at the beginning dealing with Anna’s childhood experiences with her cousin Babe (Tracy Griffith) that only has a thin connection to the rest of the plot and could’ve easily been cut and simply alluded to instead. The courtroom scenes lack impact and offer no new interesting revelations. The film also doesn’t bother to show two of the story’s most dramatic moments, which is when Molly tells her father about her experiences with Leo, or when Anna confronts Leo about it later, which to me should’ve been a must.

The ending leaves little impact making me wonder what point the filmmakers where trying to convey, or why a viewer should sit through it especially since it’s not based on a true story and meanders too long just for it to come to a very vague resolution.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 4, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Leonard Nimoy

Studio: Touchstone Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Baby Boom (1987)

baby boom

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Yuppie inherits a baby.

J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton) is a successful businesswoman who has risen to the top of the corporate world by being quite literally ‘married-to-her-job’, which is just fine with her boss (Sam Wanamaker) as he is the same way and demands nothing less. Out-of-the-blue she gets a call that a distant relative has died and sent her an inheritance. She initially thinks it’s money only to find to her shock that it’s a baby girl instead. J.C. lacks any parenting skills and has difficulty even putting on a diaper, let alone knowing the right sized one to buy. Her annoyance slowly grows to bonding as she finds raising a young one has rewards far greater than her previous yuppie lifestyle could offer.

The premise for this thing is whacked. What kind of halfway normal parent would write a will that has their child shipped off to a distant relative that they haven’t had contact with since 1954 in the event of their death? Certainly there had to have been some close friend or family member that they knew of who would’ve been far more appropriate and could’ve been forewarned that they were the intended god parent. It’s almost like the parents just threw the child off a cliff and hoped someone down below would catch her.

The Harold Ramis character should’ve been chucked from the beginning. He plays her live-in boyfriend, but if someone is working 70 to 80 hours a week then they would have little time for a social life let alone a normal, healthy romantic relationship. The idea is to show that this character’s life is imbalanced, so might as well portray her as being alone and desperate need for genuine human contact making the baby’s presence all the more significant.  Ramis disappears quickly as he bails on her the minute she decides to keep the kid, so why bother introducing him at all?

Although likable I didn’t feel Keaton was the best choice for the part. The character is given the nickname of ‘tiger lady’, but to me that would signify having traits that are cold, steely and bitchy, but Keaton never displays these. Cybil Shephard or Candice Bergen with her Murphy Brown persona would’ve been a better pick and made the character’s transition from cutthroat businesswoman to loving mommy all the more vivid.

The film does have some funny bits and the twin girls who play the part of the infant are cute and respond well to the camera. I even enjoyed when J.C. begins to bond with the girl, but Bill Conti’s musical score gets overplayed during these segments and his cutesy melody gives these otherwise  touching moments too much of a heavy-handed feel.

I certainly liked the message, but writer/director Charles Shyer tries too hard to get it across. Having the character suddenly move out to the country seemed too severe of a shift. This is the type of person who thrived in a big city atmosphere and I don’t think she’d ever fully adjust to the slow pace of the rural lifestyle, which makes this plot twist, in a movie that goes on too long to begin with, come off as a misguided tangent that isn’t interesting or believable and the ending itself is too idealistic.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 30, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Charles Shyer

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Shoot the Moon (1982)



By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A look at divorce.

After fifteen years the marriage between George and Faith Dunlap (Albert Finney, Diane Keaton) finally dissolves. He has been carrying on an affair with another woman (Karen Allen) and so he is forced to move out of their house and away from their four daughters. Sherry (Dana Hill) the oldest is angry at him and refuses to speak or even spend time with him when he has custody of the children, which starts to create major friction. Faith begins a relationship with Frank (Peter Heller) a handyman who has come over to build a tennis court in their backyard and when George finds out about this his simmering temper eventually boils over in an uncontrolled and frightening way.

If there is one thing you take away from this film it is in the luscious photography of the San Francisco bay area. The large, isolated two-story house looks almost like a dream location and was specifically built for the picture and filmed in Nicasio, California. The scenes showing George writing at his typewriter next to a window exposing crashing waves of the ocean and well as his pondering things in a small rowboat all alone in a still lake have the same dream-like quality and an ambience that allows for a rush to the senses.

The film also has an interesting music score because there is no composer credited for it even though it has pieces of simple piano interludes played throughout, which effectively reflects the mood of the film and characters and proves once again that less truly is more.

The family life scenes are on-target with everything from the perpetually chaotic atmosphere of four kids running around with endless energy to the always cluttered rooms and the mother seen picking up their discarded toys and clothes. The children are portrayed as being realistically perceptive and ask some pointed questions and not as naïve as most adults may like to believe. Hill is a real standout and her final meeting with her father late at night on a dock beside a lake is touching. Although she was 18 at the time because of her severe diabetes that stunted her growth she looks very much like the 13-year-old that she was portraying.

There are some memorable scenes including the amusing moments inside and outside a courtroom as well as Faith and George having a shouting match inside a fancy restaurant that ends up involving another couple sitting next to them. George’s angry tirade at the end in which he destroys the brand new tennis court with his car is exhilarating.

The only liability is with Finney himself. Normally he is a superior actor, but he is miscast here. For one thing there was too much of an age difference between him and Keaton and at times he almost looks more like her father. Weller who plays her boyfriend seems much more like her type and he would have been a better choice as the husband. Finney’s character borders on being unlikable and comes off at times as being a prick of the highest order. His blowups at Faith for seeing another man and at Sherry for not talking to him seem unreasonable especially since he started it all by having an affair. I did like the part though were he helps Timmy the young son of his new girlfriend late at night when he gets sick and the comment that his new girlfriend makes to him when he comes back to bed with her is a gem.

The film gives a great overall look at the emotional side of divorce, but it fails to dig any deeper.  We gain no real insight to these characters or what caused the marriage to go bad in the first place, which ultimately makes this otherwise slick production rather shallow and placid.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 22, 1982

Runtime: 2Hour 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Parker

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube