banner image

:: Melinda & Melinda

With a cleverly comprised ensemble cast and a witty premise, this film is one I consider to be Woody Allen’s best in years. A group of playwrights are together in a Chinese restaurant discussing the views of comedy vs tragedy storylines. We then move to twin narratives, each of which begins with the same incident, but then heading into different directions – one comic and one tragic.

The cast sparkles under Allen’s direction with the two scenarios working well. Australian star Radha Mitchell is in the dual role of Melinda in each story. She is a distressed woman trying to sort out her life. Radha puts in a fantastic performance in handling these roles adeptly.

Woody Allen cuts back and forth between the two stories but it’s a bracing, interesting journey. In the comic story, Melinda is a single neighbour in the apartment block who interrupts the bumbling, out-of-work actor Hobie (Will Ferrell) and his independent filmmaker wife Susan (Amanda Peet). Susan is keen to find the right guy for Melinda until Hobie decides he’s the one. In the tragic story, Melinda barges in on a dinner party hosted by an old school friend Laurel (Chloe Sevigny) with her cheating actor husband Lee (Jonny Lee Miller). Melinda comes in to tell her tale of sadness but Lee doesn’t want Melinda around the place to disrupt life.

The plots are seen as theatrical pieces and I believe that they work well because the playwrights draw the characters as if in sketches. Don’t expect the usual character development, therefore. It’s all pretty light-hearted and Woody Allen makes the point with sending the film in the direction shown.

There is good entertainment in the comic version, in particular. The interaction between Radha Mitchell and Will Ferrell wins over (finally). Ferrell’s first foray as a leading romantic shows his oddball antics can win people over. Amanda Peet also delivers a fun performance. Certainly, the film is a must see for witnessing the fine work by Radha Mitchell who helps carry the film in a major way. She is dazzling and represents the best in being versatile to unveil the comic and tragic sides to Melinda.

Allen’s directing and writing is sharp and admirable and he hasn’t pushed boundaries for a long time. He confronts marital infidelity, sophisticated love, and the difficulty to communicate. He is back to winning form.