Tag Archives: Sam Waterston

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen)

Crimes and Misdemeanors is not a particularly nice film. It juxtaposes two men in crisis–Martin Landau’s successful ophthalmologist has a girlfriend (Angelica Huston) who is threatening to tell his wife and Woody Allen’s failing filmmaker is crushing on the producer (Mia Farrow) of the his project. Allen’s only on the project, a biography of his brother-in-law (Alan Alda), because his wife insisted.

Landau’s part of the film deals with deception, guilt, regret and greed. There’s a lot about faith and rejecting religion and how family ties strengthen and slacken over time. Landau is stunning in Crimes, because he’s not likable, but he’s always sympathetic.

Meanwhile, Allen’s always likable. His first scene is opposite his niece (Jenny Nichols) and he truly cares for the kid. His scenes with her, and his sister (Caroline Aaron), are touching.

His part of the film is a light romantic comedy, if one forgets he’s married (though his wife, played by Joanna Gleason, is hideously evil). Allen and Farrow are good together; Alda’s hilarious as an obnoxious television producer.

Landau gets the majority of the run time, but around the final third is mostly Allen’s. Until the last fifteen minutes, where things come together and Allen tells the morale of the story.

He’s being intentionally mean to his characters and not worrying about the audience recognizing it. Allen’s never confrontational about it, however. The ending quietly shows the extent of the meanness.

Crimes is an excellent, thoughtful picture. Allen’s direction is utterly sublime.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Sven Nykvist; edited by Susan E. Morse; production designer, Santo Loquasto; produced by Robert Greenhut; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Martin Landau (Judah Rosenthal), Woody Allen (Cliff Stern), Mia Farrow (Halley Reed), Anjelica Huston (Dolores Paley), Alan Alda (Lester), Jerry Orbach (Jack Rosenthal), Joanna Gleason (Wendy Stern), Claire Bloom (Miriam Rosenthal), Sam Waterston (Ben), Caroline Aaron (Barbara) and Stephanie Roth (Sharon Rosenthal).


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Serial Mom (1994, John Waters)

Serial Mom gets a lot of mileage out of its concept–Kathleen Turner’s June Cleaver as a serial killer (actually, spree killer)–before it runs out of gas. Sadly, once it does, all of the plot problems become clear. But then Waters brings it to court and Mom is reinvigorated. Turner’s not special during the first hour or so, but she’s fantastic for the last third, when she’s defending herself in court.

Waters’s script seems incredibly fast and loose (like parent-teacher conferences being called a PTA meeting). For a while, he’s able to get away with it as he introduces all these annoying sitcom-esque characters for Turner to murder. Then he brings in two lengthy chase sequences back-to-back and it crumbles.

It doesn’t help the second one involves Justin Whalin, who’s simply awful in the movie. Waters can get away with a lot of goofy casting (Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords–Bess Armstrong’s in it way too little) but Whalin’s incompetent.

The supporting cast is good. Sam Waterston’s the hapless husband, (way too old for high school) Matthew Lillard is the teenage son, Ricki Lake’s the daughter with self-image problems. Lake’s performance is a tad broad, but she’s still rather likable.

Robert M. Stevens’s photography is good–he and Waters use a vibrant color scheme (Baltimore’s probably never looked so nice)–and Basil Poledouris’s score is fun.

Unfortunately, Waters’s closing gag ruins the film. He can’t seem to decide what he wants to do with it.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Waters; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Janice Hampton and Erica Huggins; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Vincent Peranio; produced by John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov; released by Savoy Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Beverly R. Sutphin), Sam Waterston (Eugene Sutphin, D.D.S.), Ricki Lake (Misty Sutphin), Matthew Lillard (Chip Sutphin), Scott Morgan (Detective Pike), Walt MacPherson (Detective Gracey), Justin Whalin (Scotty Barnhill), Patricia Dunnock (Birdie), Lonnie Horsey (Carl Pageant), Mink Stole (Dottie Hinkle) and Mary Jo Catlett (Rosemary Ackerman).


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