Buy This Film
2004
Rated: PG-13 for adult themes, adult language, and mild violence.
Genre: Drama Comedy Romance
Directed By: Woody Allen
Running Time: 1:39
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 12/11/05
DVD Features:
None.
If you like this, try: Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Five Obstructions, Thirteen Conversations about One Thing, Sidewalks of New York, This is Not a Film, Annie Hall, Play it Again Sam

MELINDA and MELINDA

 


Susan: I wish we could afford a pad in the Hamptons. Everybody who's anybody has one.
Hobie: But if you're somebody who's nobody, it's no fun to be around anybody who's everybody.

Leonardo DaVinci, as an exercise, use to drape a sheet over a chair, and draw it in two different shades of candle light. He'd draw it in one shade of light, move the candle to the other side of the chair and draw the sheet in the different light. They were both, in essence, the same sight, but depicted through two different views. As I've matured to the old age of twenty-two, my taste in movies have also matured (and if you're a regular reader of Cinema Crazed, kudos on your good taste). Over the years, I've come to warm up to Woody Allen and his films, and what I once considered an overrated filmmaker, I now consider one of my favorite directors and writers. Yes, my intelligence and charm hasn't always been this heightened, but I've come in to my age as a film buff, and Allen has become one of my favorites. True, nothing can ever top "Annie Hall" but Allen sure does try to give us something in that status.

Four people are sitting at a table eating dinner and partying, one of them is a comedy writer, the other writes drama, and one of the men at the table begins to tell a story of Melinda, a woman of a tragic life who appears one night at a dinner party among a group of people, and then the sparks begin. One of the writers is stunned that this could turn in to a wonderful romance comedy, while the other proposes a tragic love tale; both of which end up becoming fascinating and engrossing. "Melinda and Melinda" are two films down in its essence, one is the tragic tale of a woman whose entrance spells doom for a marriage that looks secure but in reality is anything but, and the other the tale of a ditzy albeit suicidal woman who shakes things up in a marriage and becomes a figure for self-realization, but shockingly neither of which end as we'd suspect.

There's the dramatic and comedic essence of this disparity and they end up surprisingly similar just the same in the climax. What's ultimately examined here is the peculiarity of two different genres, the two rawest of film and literary genres that both reflect the human condition. As often posed these days, which sort of tale would appeal to the human soul, a tale of tragedy, or a tale of comedy? These days that can be a very long debate filled with interesting points, because the topic that has ranged among the writing world lately is what do people want these days? Self reflecting tragedy, or escapist comedy? People who see the film will pick for themselves. I was more inclined to like both. "Melinda and Melinda" examines that thought through two different tales of one woman.

But down to their cores, they're still basically the same tale, but only as the writers prefer to see them. Not to mention it displays for us the ability of the human mind to perceive a situation in our own frame of preference. For example, when remembering a funeral we may remember a funny event during that time, or we remember a funny situation and follow it with a sad memory as is displayed in the very thought-provoking and witty climax. In one utterly biting scene, a pianist at a party asks when Melinda begins to cry at the sound of a familiar song "Are those tears of sorrow or tears of joy?" to which she replies "Aren't they the same tears?" Allen's talents are there with the one-liners, and examinations of relationships and hollow pairings which are secure but hardly loving.

Chloe Sevigny and Johnny Lee Miller are the dramatic couple whom must contend with Melinda, while Will Ferrell and Amanda Peet are the comedic pairing. It's fascinating that the four of them are the exact same personas, but just painted in different ways, which make it so mind-boggling in the end. Radha Mitchell is both sublime and incredibly attractive in both incarnations. She's the center here and gives a very good performance pulling her weight and holding her own against the seasoned cast.

She's gorgeous and an interesting character who manages to draw in the people around her inadvertently. Allen's dissection of the human mind and its lust for different tales really does flourish with the talent and top notch writing. While many critics have deemed this one of his weakest, in terms of dissecting the human mind, it's up there for me with some of his finest. Allen has always succeeded in tragicomedies featuring his own manifestation on-screen, but here he's missing putting on display the raw talent for the audience, instead. Luckily he's broken from his slump with his last three entries being incredibly sub-par. "Melinda and Melinda" is a more unseen entry that I really enjoyed.

One of the main lures for the ad campaign on the audience was the starring of Will Ferrell. But the sad thing is Will Ferrell is immensely underwhelming. Ferrell's character isn't as complex as the writing would have us believe and he's ultimately just a vapid protagonist who doesn't really seem to be a sympathetic character at all. Ferrell does the
Allen archetype with the gawky befuddlement and sharp one-liners but it's just not the same if Allen isn't doing it. Ferrell's talents are under-played in exchange for the situation and we never feel sad for him at all when he longs for Melinda. It's impossible to watch an Allen film without watching the Allen archetype, and Ferrell just doesn't handle it well ending up as a forgettable portion of what Allen offers.

While the main lure for audiences--Will Ferrell--is basically forgettable, Allen does compose one fascinating and witty look at the human mind and its own ability to depict events through our own sub-conscious preference. With good writing, top-notch acting, and a great performance from Mitchell, Allen is back to his essence.

 

 

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