Woody Allen redeems himself with this inventive and insightful look at
relationships although it suffers the flaws of his more recent
films-namely uneven tone and wildy varying acting styles.
Focusing on a table of sophisticated wordsmiths at a Manhattan eatery,
Allen shows a beautiful complex fictitious woman named Melinda( Radha
Mitchell of ‘Finding Neverland’), who comes to embody those twin marks
of laughter and tears that symbolise theatre.
Allen waltzes Melinda through different sets of events, one concocted
by comic playwright Sy (Wallace Shawn) the other by a dramatic scribe
Max (Larry Pine), as they nibble and quip with the usual glib that is
so characteristic of Allen Manhattanites.
Trying to explain the plot here is pointless, but Allen cleverly weaves
them in and out of each other, making sure that we get the point that
all comedy is reliant on tragedy, and vice versa. And this is by far
the most wonderful thing about this film, letting us examine our lives
and see the good in the bad and of course the bad in the good.
The film’s greatest asset is Radha Mitchell- she is flat out superb.
She plays comedy with timing and grace, and the tragedy with twitchy,
neurotic, unsettling energy. As the only actress to appear in both
comic and tragic strands, she effectively carries the film, and she
makes the weight seem entirely negligible.
Chitwel Ejiofor, from Dirty Pretty Things, also impresses, with a
poetic performance of quiet strength and great magnetism. In fact all
of the cast are clearly relishing the chance to get to grips with the
meaty script and act their socks off. This is not uncommon in Allen’s
films-actors love working with him and he always gets the best out of
There are weaknesses however; Will Ferrell ends up doing bad
impersonations of Allen. But why doesn’t Allen tell him to damn well
cut it out? There are certain lines that are flat out impersonation.
Perhaps it is the way dialogue is written. Allen’s authorial voice and
his familiar way with dialogue are so imprinted into the minds of every
actor that they can’t just help themselves. Ferrell ‘s regular
Allenisms jar you out of the scene and remind you of what and whom you
Allen’s attitude towards ‘Melinda and Melinda’ recalls the
lets-just-try-and-see-what-happens approach that led him to such recent
projects in 1996’s offbeat musical ‘Everybody Says I Love You’, or
2001’s retro mystery farce, ‘The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.’ Where
there seemed to be a fierce drive pressing Allen of thirty years ago to
reinvent his comedic image in such cinematic change-ups as 1977’s
‘Annie Hall’ or 1980s ‘Stardust Memories,’ the older, more outwardly
serene Allen seems motivated by a playful curiosity, often with uneven