Monday, March 1, 2010

Manhattan: I Hate Tracy, and "Where the Wild Things Are"

I have a problem with “Manhattan.” Yes, a problem. I hate Tracy. There, I said it. I HATE Tracy. She’s a doormat, and in the cast of kooky, over the top Allen archetypes, Mariel Hemingway’s performance is too subtle and underplayed for my tastes. She sticks out like a boring, strong-jawed 17 year old thumb. I cannot understand why she got so much acclaim for this role. She seems to me to be so out of place and miscast. Her subtlety was jarring, rather than affecting, and somewhat disingenuous. She’s supposed to be so mature and adult, the most grown up person in the film, some may argue, and yet her blind, inexplicable pursuit of Allen’s Isaac played to me as childish, almost as needy and ridiculous as any other character in the film, but less likeable, despite her (significantly fewer) faults.

So what did I like about Manhattan? The deeply flawed, selfish monsters that comprise the rest of the cast. And I do mean monsters. Manhattan, to me, is almost Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” played out in black and white by scrawny children in intellectual drag. All of the characters are self-centered creatures, fixated on pleasure and image, myopically focused on satisfying their vicious, childish urges. Isaac is having sex with a child, Mary wants to be the big, brilliant kid on the playground, and Yale… well, Yale is Max, the self-centered King of his own wild Manhattan jungle. Yale bangs around the city utterly using and destroying everyone around him without a care, beyond his deep concern for his own happiness. He cheats on his wife with Mary, really indifferent to the pain this may cause her. He dumps Mary and foists her off on Isaac, disposing of her, in kingly fashion, and bestowing his sloppy seconds on his vassal, pathetic little Isaac. And then! Once Isaac has dumped Tracy (and good riddance, I say) and found relative happiness with Mary, Yale takes Mary back, uncaring for his “friend’s” feeling on the matter. Yale hurts Isaac, steals his second-hand woman, and his response, when Isaac calls him on it, is essentially schoolyard “nananabooboo, I saw her first!”

Manhattan is the picturesque monster island on which debauched Yale reigns as king, and his monstrous vassals, Mary, Isaac, et all, happily dance to his direction, mating and splitting, in Isaac and Mary’s case, at Yale’s whim.

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