Melinda and Melinda
- Woody Allen
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, August 15, 2006
What Melinda and Melinda does offer, if not common entertainment as craved by any moviegoer, is an interesting observation of drama, and how different view-points can transform the same thing into a completely different take on life. The story commences with a table of intellectuals, namely two playwrights, Al (Neil Pepe) and Sy (Wallace Shawn), discussing life as seen from a comic or a dramatic point of view. Sy goes for comic, Al for dramatic, and they do something fun: given a premise, they take the same story in different directionsóone dramatic, one comicóand observe the procedure at every turn. It sure is an interesting idea!
The story: A woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) drops by unexpectedly in a dinner party disrupting the event.
Alís story shows her as a very disturbed woman, wrecked by her failed marriage and ill-fated affairs, and slowly decaying into madness in the best Blanche Dubois style. The dinner party is hosted by an old friend, Laurel (ChloŽ Sevigny), and her husband Lee (Jonny Lee Miller). After some time, with a little help from her friends, Melinda starts rebuilding her life, but itís her romance to pianist Ellis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) that determines the course of her fate.
Syís story shows her as a complicated but lighthearted woman whose failed marriage and overall bad-luck relationships only complicate her life further, though she tends to complicate the lives of people around her as a sort of charming epidemic. The dinnerís hosts are Susan (Amanda Peet), a film assistant director who aspires to helm a movie of her own, and her husband Hobie (Will Ferrell). Hobie soon falls for Melinda, and his cold relationship to his wife Susan doesnít help, but he doesnít want to make his wife suffer and also has no idea how to get to Melinda. Every attempt proves more and more unfortunate and it all gets wacky and hilarious after a while.
The result is successful as seen by the debating playwrights: the stories start in a similar way, both go in similar directions, yet both are completely different. However, the movie weíre watching is not half as successful. The stories arenít similar enough to make the comparisons interesting, and neither is sufficiently absorbing in itself. Only after a good while the comic take gets catchy, and Ferrellís performance, closely resembling the typical Allen persona, helps a lot, but it doesnít quite get there. The dramatic one is more boring than tragic, and only gets affecting at the very end. Laurelís character, movingly performed by Sevigny, makes an impression though.
Mitchellís casting is fortunate and successful. She hasnít got too much attention since, as I gather, but itís still notable how well she pulled off both Melindas without any apparent trouble. Great job.
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Other reviews of Melinda and Melinda (2004): Morris