Sudden Manhattan (1997) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
30Jul/100

Sudden Manhattan (1997)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny LIKEDonna's boyfriend turns to her. "Are you normally psychopathically delusional?"

She shrugs, "No, I'm just going through a bad stage."

And what a bad stage it is. Donna, played by the incomparable Adrienne Shelly with her mismatched eyebrows and hair, angular face, and deep soulful eyes, has had a rough time; she's unemployed, dating a man with impotence problems, and every day, walking down the street, she sees a bearded maniac gun down a  different person.

She runs to tell the police, "I saw a murder!"

"No you didn't," they respond, staring her down until she walks away.

Is Donna crazy? She narrates the movie through her journal, which chronicles her insecurities and possible descent into madness. She writes "the truth is there is no truth" and the movie expounds upon this in a rambling fashion, taking little moments and playing with reality to heighten the oddities occurring; she sees herself making love to a man through a window. She seems distressed.

Donna lives in a rent free apartment because her creative writing professor is obsessed with her; in a nice touch, he seems to be much more obsessed with the idea of being obsessed with her.

Donna spends her days, when not at class or consoling her crying best friend, wandering the streets and eating at the local diner. Things start to go to shit when her eggs begin to make noises.

Sudden Manhattan is fairly typical of the style of the mid-90's indie movies, with a freedom and rambling sense of madness, establishing a mood like spiritually akin to Richard Linklater's Slacker and Hal Hartley's oeuvre. Sudden Manhattan, coming from Shelly as star, writer, and director, seems like the formula for a vanity project, but instead plays like smooth jazz and a messy, goofy introspective rant. Shelly is inoffensive as the star, and fascinating to watch.


Shelly fuels it with wit and observations of angst, and plays it with enough subtlety that you can draw the themes out on your own. The interconnected madness of city life and the rampant fears of all city dwellers are played for dark laughs.

I was particularly fond of the gypsy fortune teller. "We will be tortured and we will die," she insists. Trying to stop the madman murderer? No, she says, that's what happens to everyone in the world. They are tortured, and then they die.

Sudden Manhattan (1997)

This film (IMDB) is available on DVD and Netflix Instant, though the Netflix version is cropped to full screen.

Directed by Adrienne Shelly
Starring Adrienne Shelly

Posted by Danny

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