Film: Manhattan

"And now look. This is what happens to us."

"An idea for a short story about, um, people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these real, unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves cos it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about... the universe."

One of Woody Allen's best-known films, the 1979 comedy-drama Manhattan is almost universally beloved by fans and critics and famously loathed by the director himself.

In many respects it resembles Annie Hall: not only because a female protagonist is played in both films by Diane Keaton but also because it shows that the most important problems associated with relationships simply cannot be solved once and for ever - all this in a typical Allenian sweet-and-sour, self-ironic mood. However, in Manhattan the distinction between primary and secondary characters is much more fluent, so the movie is more about the particular situations than persons. One of the important subjects is maturity and its relation to the conflict between emotions and reason, but, as this is a Woody Allen movie, it is mainly about love, human imperfection and the difficulties which stem from them.

The plot revolves around a couple of intellectual, semi-bohemian friends living in Manhattan, every one of whom has his own problems, intertwining with those of the others. Isaac (Ike) is a neurotic, self-ironic, impulsive, middle-aged aspiring writer, whose wife Jill, the mother of his son Willie, divorced him after discovering that she's in fact a lesbian and now is writing an autobiographical novel about their former relationship. Tracy, his 17-years-old lover, has to deal with her growing love towards Ike and the age difference between her and the majority of Ike's friends. Yale, Ike's friend, dreams of becoming a writer, even though his wife Emily strongly suggests that it's time to settle down and have kids; his life changes even more when he meets Mary, an extroverted, erudite journalist. Mary quickly becomes infatuated, but it is hard for her to say whether the object of her feelings is Ike or Yale. There is also Jeremiah, Mary's ex-husband, and Jill's new partner Connie. First, Hilarity Ensues, then, as usual in Allen's works, things become more complicated.

Not to be confused with the 2014 television series Manhattan.


  • Author Avatar: As usual in Allen's movies.
  • Better as Friends: Ike and Jill. It even seems they knew it already during their relationship:
    "My analyst warned me, but you were so beautiful I got another analyst."
  • Big Apple Sauce: See the title. The opening monologue - set to Rhapsody in Blue and synced with a montage of New York City at its most beautiful - is routinely quoted by anyone in love with the place.
    Issac: Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. Oh, I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be.
  • Broken Bird: Subverted, as Tracy gets dumped by Ike, but gets over it, presumably becoming stronger and more mature.
  • The Cameo: Wallace Shawn is Mary's ex-boyfriend. She spent all film hyping his intelligence and sexual prowess, and Ike is astonished to meet what he calls "a humunculous".
  • The City: As the title shows.
  • Creator Backlash: Allen disliked the film so much that he offered to make another one for the studio for free if they don't release this one.
  • Dramatic Stutter: Happens to Ike.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In a meta sense. Mia Farrow makes a cameo in the film, and for the next decade and a half, Farrow would replace Keaton in Allen's films.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Isaac and Mary.
    "Facts. I got a million facts at my fingertips. They mean nothing cos nothing worth knowing is understood with the mind. Everything valuable enters through a different opening, if you'll forgive the disgusting imagery. (...) The brain is the most overrated organ."
  • The Power of Love: Played with, in the conversations between Ike and Tracy about Tracy's travel to London.
  • Reasoning with God: Invoked by Isaac in his cool and unusual compliment of Tracy's looks:
    "You're... You're God's answer to Job. You would have ended all argument between them. He'd have said 'I do a lot of terrible things but I can also make one of these.' And Job would've said 'OK, you win.'"
  • Scenery Porn: In spite of the black'n'white vision. The title says it all.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: While out having dinner with Tracy, Yale and Emily, Isaac puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it.
    Isaac: Mmmm... oh, man, that is so great.
    Tracy: [scoffs] You don't smoke.
    Isaac: I know I don't smoke. I don't inhale, because it gives you cancer. But I look so incredibly handsome with a cigarette that I can't not hold one.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Very fitting to the Freudian Trio pattern: with Tracy as a child (or the Ego, in the process of development), Emily as a wife (or the Superego, exhorting to emotional maturity), and Mary as a seductress (or the wild Id).