Review: Melinda And Melinda (2004)

melindaandmelinda

Too many women throwing themselves out windows!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

With Melinda And Melinda I begin my exposure to the recent work of one of my favorite directors. Woody Allen. My trek through Allen’s work stopped in the late-80’s, but with Melinda And Melinda I firmly set my foot in what most consider his lesser period of work. Perhaps I picked the wrong movie to start this lesser Allen trek off with, because while Melinda And Melinda was a few shades below his “prime” work it was still a worthy entry in the Woody Allen filmography.

The pull of Melinda And Melinda is its unique format, two divergent story types using one central character. Melinda And Melinda isn’t a traditional movie, it’s story isn’t supposed to be rounded out and it’s supposed to be more sensationalistic because it should represent two creators winging a story on the spot. This format where one story is playing out in terms of a tragedy and the other is a comedy was interesting. In a very simple way it drives home the theme of how the world is shaped by how we choose to perceive it. Unfortunately the format also causes some problems. While it is an interesting idea it creates a scenario where the audience is at a distance. The dramatic moments can’t pull the audience all the way in because the “story doesn’t matter” format leaves us without a true connection to the characters.

A storytelling style such as the one employed in Melinda And Melinda relies on the acting to pull it off. For the most part, the acting is just there, nothing to write home about either proudly or derisively. There were two performances that did stand out, the work of Radha Mitchell and Will Ferrell. Mitchell is very good in the light comedic storyline, she has an airy naturalness to her character in that setting. In the more serious storyline she strains to hit a manic note and her performance suffers as a result. It’s not a bad performance, but you can see her true acting chops in the comedic storyline. Will Ferrell thrives on Woody Allen’s dialogue, and his method of delivery is perfectly suited to the world of Woody Allen. He is very funny in his role, and he does so quietly. Most people know Ferrell as the loud obnoxious funny guy, but in Melinda And Melinda he was very quiet and subtle, and most importantly very funny.

There were little tidbits in Melinda And Melinda that both worked and could have used some more tweaking. I would have liked more moments with the creators at the diner table. More instances of them explaining the direction of their story would have helped the format and would have helped the overall stories. The little facts that each story had in common popping up at different times added to the unique feel of the film and it was fun to pick out what each story had in connection.

Melinda And Melinda doesn’t hold up to the best of Woody Allen’s works, but it certainly isn’t the pile of trash I had been led to believe was characteristic of Allen’s present work. It’s funny, but could have been a bit funnier. It is dramatic but it fails to connect emotionally. The format is interesting but keeps the viewer at a distance. It is a good movie in a lot of areas, but not that good in others.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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