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6 Feb 2014

MELINDA AND MELINDA

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  08:30   WOODY ALLEN

Melinda and Melinda Cover Are you the type of person who laughs at funerals, guffaws at road side accidents, or pisses yourself silly whilst seeing some twat jump out of a bloody window? If not, then please watch this 100 minute movie made in 2005. It was Directed by Woody Allen; and Starred: Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Amanda Chloë, Steve Carell, Chloë Sevigny, with Jonny Lee Miller.


Melinda and Melinda


THE STORY:
Picture the scene. Four friends are huddled around a small table situated in a coffee shop, speaking about life and the causes of existence. Now person 1 sees life as a tragedy. Person 2 see life as a comedy. Person 3 acts as the mediator. And person 4 tells them all a tale, which in turn, prompts person 1 and 2 to try to interpret it in their own amiable way.


Here. This is what they say:

THE TRAGIC STORY: Laurel and Lee (Chloe Sevigny and Jonny Lee Miller) are two upper west side New Yorkers, whom are hosting a dinner party to impress a film director, so Lee can get an acting job on his up and coming movie. When suddenly, out of the blue, Laurels sister, Melinda (Radha Mitchell), comes stumbling in, and interrupts this dinner party with her sullen appearance.

Well, Melinda is a troubled soul you see. A very troubled soul. Because in recent months she has broken up with her husband, separated from her lover, and lost custody of her children in the process.

Don't you worry, though, folks. Obviously feeling sorry for her plight, Laurel and her close friend, Cassie (Brooke Smith), try to arrange a date for Melinda, by hosting another dinner party, where she can then meet a sweet new dentist.

However, I'm afraid to say that this plan doesn't seem to pan in the way Laurel hoped it would. Because instead of Melinda falling for the dentist, what she ends up doing is falling for the pianist playing at the party. A pianist named Ellis (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

Admittedly, at first this union appears to be doing just fine under its own steam. He accepts her philandering past, whilst she grows stronger just by being in his presence. Unfortunately, though, during this said same time period, Melinda's sister, Laurel, grows despondent with her actor husband -- Lee -- whom she suspects is having an affair behind her back (he is). Worst still, one day she starts having feelings for Ellis too. Spearheaded when Melinda, Ellis, and herself, go out together to a concerto.

Oh my God! What a tragic set of circumstances that is! Or is it?

THE COMIC STORY: Hobie and Susan (Will Ferrel and Amanda Peet) are two upper west side New Yorkers, whom are hosting a dinner party to impress a financier, so Susan can make a film she wants to direct. When suddenly, out of the blue, the next door neighbor, Melinda (Randa Mitchell), comes stumbling in, and interrupts this dinner party, because in recent months she has broken up with her husband, and by accident, she has overdosed herself on sleeping pills.

Don't you worry, though, folks. Cause a few days later, Hobie bumps into Melinda bright and well, and asks her to go out to the races with him and his pal, Walt (Steve Carrell).

Thankfully, she accepts. And they all spend a rather nice evening together, loosing money and winning love at every toss of a pony.

Yes. That's right. I said 'love'. Hobie falls in love with Melinda you see. And even though he does not express this to her in verbal terms, his wife, Susan, suspects something is amiss, and tries to set-up Melinda with a new dentist friend of hers.

However, I'm afraid to say this ‘date’ doesn't really go according to plan. Prompting Hobie to use Melinda's singleton life to grow closer and closer to her, whilst distancing himself from Susan at the same time.

Ha! You got to laugh! Or do you?




THE REVIEW:
Quite some time ago I watched a documentary which touched upon the subject matter conveyed within this film, 'Melinda and Melinda'. If I remember rightly, there was a scene in it, in which the English comedian, Spike Milligan, tried to pose a theory that stated comedy can only exist within tragedy after the event, and not during the event. Now the example Spike gave was about Admiral Lord Nelson, and how everyone laughs about his disfigurements nowadays, but at the time, there was nothing amusing about it at all.

Therefore, tragedy + time = comedy.

Melinda and Melinda Starring Chloe Sevigny
I'm sure that the Writer / Director of this yarn, Woody Allen, saw this clip too (because he's also a big Spike Milligan fan). And this is most probably why he decided to put this theory to the test within this cinematic landscape.

Well, it only stands to reason that a comedian would want to juxtapose comedy and tragedy within the same project. Who else do you think would understand these two matters more? A politician or a banker perhaps? Ha! Don't make me laugh.

Woody, like many other comics of his ilk, has a deeper understanding about emotion than people give him credit for. You only have to take a look at some of his past works to see what I'm talking about. Off the top of my head 'Love and Death' and 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' are just two films I can mention that explore similar themes and tones.

Having said that, though, I'm sorry to say that Woody’s interpretation of the 'comedy / tragedy dilemma' didn't seem to work within this movie one little bit. Even though I'm a big fan of Woody and his projects, and I do enjoy the topics he tries to tackle, in the same breath, 'Melinda and Melinda' struck a bum note within me. And it done it in a very unusual way too.

Hey. Don't get me wrong. The cast did a bang up job playing their respective roles (especially Will). Plus the film looked great (as always), and the jazzy music enhanced this piece no end. My problem with this film is that the essence behind it got lost somewhere within it's narrative structure. Cause the comedy wasn't all that funny, and the tragedy was just plain annoying to watch.

Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda with Radha MitchellHey! I do feel really bad for saying this, folks. Honestly I do. As there are genuinely some really great scenes scattered throughout this movie, both tragic and comedic in flavor. Its just that these two elements don't play out consistently within the entire tale, and just flimflams between the two aforementioned sections so much, that one minute you want to laugh, and the next you want to cry, but for two very completely different reasons altogether.

Its a shame really. A bloody shame. Because I hoped for something a lot more in-depth and thought provoking from a film involving a great cast of actors and my pal, Woody.

Its the way that the bi-polar narrative are both spliced together that lets the conceptual story down. It lets it down because the pacing and the juxtaposition didn't work when both elements were sliced together. Giving the overall production a rather ying / yang tone that never jelled together aesthetically.


Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda with Radha Mitchell


 Melinda and Melinda Movie Poster
Anyway. That's enough of that methinks. Because I think that its about time for some flimic-facts. (1) 'Fox Searchlight' first screened this production at the San Sebastián Film Festival, on the 17th of September, 2004, and grossed $20 million dollars worldwide. (2) During pre-production, this project was entitled 'Untitled Woody Allen Fall Project'. (3) As expected, this film was shot on location throughout the American state of New York, New York. This includes, Central Park, Manhattan; Lenox Hill Hospital, 64th Street; plus Dune Road and Belmont Race Track, Long Island. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'One love story. Two versions. Seriously funny'. (5) According to Woody, he wrote the screenplay for this film in just one month. (6) The casting for this movie was a most perculiar affair indeed. Robert Downey Jr was originally cast in the Will Ferrell role, but dropped out because his insurance premiums were too costly for the studio. Plus Winona Ryder was originally cast to play Melinda too, but she dropped out because of the very same reason. (7) Woody hired Radhah Mitchell when he saw her in the Rodrigo García 2002 drama, 'Ten Tiny Love Stories', plus she was the only actor in the cast who had the whole script to read.


Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda


Overall I'd say 'Melinda and Melinda' was a mixed bag of fish. The good parts were good. The bad parts were annoying. Yet at the end of the day it's well worth a watch if you're the type of person who's interested in the whole comedy / tragedy dilemma.

Nuff said.

THE RATING: B-

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