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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

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.