Melinda And Melinda (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/11/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Woody Allen’s best film for Quite Some Time, an inventive, intellectual comedy with an attractive cast and an amusing script.

Times have been hard for Woody Allen fans in recent years; despite his continued ability to churn out a film a year, he hasn’t really made a good movie since Sweet and Lowdown in 2000. On top of that, he suffered the ultimate indignity of one of his films (Hollywood Ending) going straight to video over here, despite starring Hugh Grant.

It’s a relief, then, that Melinda and Melinda finds Allen back on something approaching top form, with an inventive, well written comedy that’s nicely acted by its attractive cast.

Some Dramatic Licence

The imaginative set-up allows for a little dramatic licence. A group of artistic friends are having a discussion in a café about the relative merits of comedy versus tragedy. Since two of the friends are writers (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine), they each start with the same scenario (a young woman named Melinda knocks on the door of an apartment in New York) and tell parallel tales to illustrate their point: that tragedy is tinged with comedy and vice versa.

Only Melinda (Radha Mitchell) is common to both stories: the tragedy features Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Sevigny and Chiwetel Ejiofor while the comedy has Will Ferrell (in the Woody Allen role) and Amanda Peet.

The two stories explore Allen’s familiar themes of romance, marital infidelity, and the failure to communicate (“Of course we can communicate”, snaps Peet, “Now can we not talk about it?”), complete with the usual array of killer one-liners and smart sight gags.

The script is extremely witty and exploits its premise nicely with some subtle touches: for example, both story-tellers can’t resist giving their incidental characters colourful names like Ellis Moonsong, Bud Silverglide or Mr Woodcrutch.

Rahda Mitchell Remarkable

Radha Mitchell is remarkable in an impressive dual role, playing two very different characters, one hyper-neurotic and slightly disturbed, the other a typical Allen heroine in the Annie Hall mould. Will Ferrell is very funny and he does a better job of ‘being’ Woody than either Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity or John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway. He’s also a gifted physical comedian: a silent scene at the racetrack is a definite comic highlight.

The other performances are something of a mixed bag: Miller and Sevigny occasionally seem like they’re trying too hard, while Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a relaxed, likeable performance that shows he is a definite talent to watch. Amanda Peet is good too, although she’s much more of a bitchy caricature and isn’t given all that much to do as a result.

In short, Melinda and Melinda is a well-written, thought-provoking comedy that marks a welcome return to form for Allen. It will also be interesting to see if Will Ferrell’s ever-increasing fan base can turn this into something of a minor hit. Worth seeing.

Film Trailer

Melinda And Melinda (tbc)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:50

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