Woody Allen and Diane Keaton play married couple Larry and Carol Lipton. Their relationship is jolted when an elderly woman on their apartment dies from a heart attack. When the deceased woman’s husband doesn’t seem too grief stricken, Carol begins to suspect him of foul play. Has the perfect murder occurred among their midst? Poison maybe? The invigorated Carol snoops around for clues like an amateur Nancy Drew, despite Larry’s constant disapproval. The only person who encourages Carol is their friend Ted (Alan Alda) who has crazy theories of his own.
“Manhattan Murder Mystery” is one of Woody Allen’s best films. It starts innocently slow, and then it accelerates haphazardly. As a mystery film, it has a deviously brilliant plot that fascinates at every turn. And the screenplay is so darn clever that it discards ideas that an average thriller would consider a treasure. As a comedy, it steps in the right direction with the fumbling guidance of Woody Allen. As expected, it is littered with memorable lines (“Claustrophia and a dead body – this is a neurotic’s jackpot!”) and panic-stricken moments. The comedy eliminates the usual boring parts of a mystery but retains its suspense. And by making the suspense so nerve-racking, Allen has cleverly cornered the viewer to laugh to release the tension. The performances are too good. Keaton and Allen work together effortlessly. Woody Allen may repeatedly play one type of guy, but nobody can be hilarious neurotic as he is. I’m glad the auteur still has the goods, even if he has been uneven in his other projects. Finally, what makes this movie connects is that I would probably act the same way Carol and Larry did. If you have seen enough Hitchcockian thrillers and read enough mystery novels as I have, aren’t you likely to come up with theories of your own and be obsessed about it? There’s no mystery about it, this is the funniest mystery to investigate.