Melinda & Melinda

"Good"

Melinda & Melinda Review


Woody Allen hit upon a plucky, imaginative concept for "Melinda andMelinda": The same story, of a woman at loose ends, imagined as bothcomedy and tragedy by two playwrights (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine) arguingin a Manhattan cafe whether life is inherently funny or inherently sad.

While these bookend scenes are uncharacteristically clunkyand deliberate, full of exposition designed to set the fictional stage,the two parallel stories are pure Woody Allen at his ironic, neurotic,romantic, poignant and peculiar best -- and they're deftly woven togetherto compliment and play off each other.

The underappreciated Radha Mitchell (she played wives in"FindingNeverland," "PhoneBooth" and "Manon Fire") may now get the recognition shedeserves with her remarkable performances in the dual title role as a flighty,suicidal beauty who arrives in each story by crashing a dinner party.

One Melinda is a new downstairs neighbor who knocks onthe Upper East Side door of wannabe filmmaker Amanda Peet (who flirts withrich men hoping they'll fund her independent movie "The CastrationSonata") and her husband, neurotic out-of-work actor Will Ferrell(the picture's requisite Woody surrogate, although with unpredicted nuanceFerrell makes the role his own). Pratfalling into the dining room, Melindaannounces she's just taken two dozen sleeping pills. The comical chaosthat ensues leads to friendships, infidelities and unrequited love, allorbiting around Melinda -- although she's largely unaware of the upheavalshe's wrought.

The other Melinda is a despondent, unstable mother whohas lost her income, her house and custody of her kids. Desperate for aplace to stay, she arrives unannounced and disheveled at the trendy loftof an old boarding school chum, Park Avenue princess Chloe Sevingy ("BoysDon't Cry," "ShatteredGlass"). Sevingy's philandering husbandis a failed actor as well (Jonny Lee Miller, "Trainspotting"),but the these characters have little else in common with Peet and Ferrell,save that Melinda's arrival creates tension in their marriage and introducesa unpredictable element into their social circle.

In both stories Melinda's friends try to help her put herlife back together, with some ups and downs, and varying degrees of devotionand success -- all the makings of great laughs, serious soul-searchingand other cross-pollinating thematic elements. Of course, being a WoodyAllen film, the drama is often funnier than the farce, and vice versa.

Allen creates touchstone moments that bleed between thetwo tales, and edits them together in a way that enhances the film's underlyingpremise that, depending on atmosphere and happenstance, tragedy and comedyare interchangeable. But this is not an exercise in cinematic self-awareness.There's no CharlieKaufman-like intersection of the two realities."Melinda and Melinda" simply returns to the two playwrights forits inferences, at which points the film always stumbles a little. Eventhough these fleeting cut-aways are the gatekeepers of the plot, the mouthfulsof dialogue regurgitated by Shawn and Pine read like an afterthought designedto make sure the audience gets the point.

The impeccable casts in the two narratives do overcomethe mechanical nature of these wrap-arounds, and Woody Allen's gift forbringing out something unique in actors who have often been pigeonholedbefore he hires them is very much in evidence here.

But it's the flawless parallel performances of Radha Mitchellthat give the picture its soul. She maintains a nugget of sorrow in sillyMelinda's improving disposition (she's a fine comedienne) and a modicumof humor in unhinged Melinda's self-destructive volatility (she deliversmore than one moving yet mordant monologue of anguished self-examination).More importantly though, she understands that the character is the sameperson at her core, shaped by the circumstances of life, and brings tobear that deeper self in both.

Coming so early in the year, this performance will likelybe forgotten by the time Oscar season rolls around, but Mitchell is goingon my Best Actress list right now.



Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd March 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.