Thursday, April 14, 2005

Title:Melinda And Melinda
Cast: Rhada Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Amanda Peet
Director: Woody Allen

I have to admit that in my life I have seen one, maybe two, films by Woody Allen. He has a certain reputation, one that doesn’t always particularly do him any favours. With his recent output, he seems to have hit on a cunning plan, he doesn’t cast himself. So, his last film, with Christina Ricci, sounded as though it could be interesting, though I never got round to seeing it. His new film, Melinda And Melinda, with Rhada Mitchell, also sounded interesting, and I finally got round to seeing it.

The basic premise of the film is that there are four people having dinner in a restaurant, one of them writes comedies and another writes tragedies, and the differences between the two have become the focus of conversation. To analyse this situation, one of the other diners has proposed a situation where a woman crashes a dinner party unexpected, and in doing so has a great effect on the lives of those people present. From there, the comedy and tragedy writers take the character of Melinda and do their best to outdo each other as they shoe horn in scenarios that suit their personal strengths.

Melinda (Rhada Mitchell) features in both stories. In tragedy, she has just got out of a mental hospital, having tried to kill herself, after losing her kids to her husband, after having an affair. In comedy, erm, its pretty much the same idea. In tragedy, she crashes the party of people she was friends with from school, and has an impact on their dysfunctional lives. In comedy, she crashes the party of people she has never met before and has an impact on their dysfunctional lives.

To a degree, the point that Allen is trying to make is that comedy and tragedy aren’t necessarily that different. To illustrate that the stories mirror each other to a considerable extent, to the point where you can’t always tell the comedy from the tragedy. Though in saying that, as the film progresses, one isn’t particularly convinced that one is watching either, or that one particularly cares. The dialogue is excessive, it doesn’t feel like the conversations real people would have, but it doesn’t feel excessive enough that you could say this was theatrical art.

Despite a cast of names that includes Rhada Mitchell doing her best to bring both Melindas to life, along side Will Ferrell, Amanda Peet, Chloe Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film really doesn’t work. It kind of progresses to some degree as a drama, without really succeeding in getting the comedy or tragedy, something which it tries so hard to achieve, while reminding you that this is all a speculative conversation in a restaurant that in the end the film just feels trite and hollow.

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