Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Life can be a comedy or a tragedy, it all depends on how you look at it.
The Basic Plot
Over dinner Sy, a playwright played by Wallace Shawn (My Dinner with Andre, The Princess Bride), proposes an intellectual exercise to fellow playwright Max (Larry Pine) and dinner guests. Is life typically tragic or comic? To illustrate his point he begins to tell a story which he invites the others to embellish. The result is the two tales of Melinda and Melinda. In the tragic tale Melinda (Radha Mitchell) is a disturbed woman who crashes a dinner party of two friends (Chloe Sevigny and Johnny Lee Miller) she hasn't seen in years. In the comic version of the tale Melinda is the downstairs neighbours to two friends played by comic actors Will Ferrell and Amanda Peet.
Not having seen the film yet I'll keep my comments brief. Based on the synopsis and other critics reviews of Allen's latest work I have to say this sounds similar in some respects to a Spanish film called Morir (o no) (To Die or Not) in which a screenwriter begins discussing a hypothetical situation for a movie. Instead of comparing tragedy to comedy the screenwriter discusses death and the movie unfolds around a series of interconnected deaths.
In Allen's movie the exercise sounds somewhat hollow. Basically a writer's "what if?" the scenes are told with imaginary characters and since the two duelling playwrights are trying to prove a point, neither the tragic or comic scenario has to be a complete tale. I suspect (and hopefully I get to check it out first hand) that the movie will leave the viewer feeling cheated and unfulfilled in the end. Instead of the director and writer Allen helping us to understand his central point that life contains both comic and tragic elements depending on how you view it, I suspect it will come off as trite piece of intellectual showmanship in which Allen taunts his audience with his cleverness.
The film opened in limited release in the United States on in March 2005, but has opened previously in 2004 in several European countries. Check back later for a full review.
©2005- A. Taylor
Review Posted: 2005-04-16
Review Posted: 2005-04-16
Melinda and Melinda Official Web Site
Includes movie trailer, cast bios, story synopsis, still photos, etc.
Internet Movie Database
The ever useful Internet Movie Database entry for Primer complete with cast info, plot summary, and release dates.
Roger Ebert Review of Melinda and Melinda
Roger Ebert's very positive review of Melinda and Melinda at the Sun Times.
One Guy's Opinion - Melinda and Melinda Review
A more critical review of Melinda and Melinda by Dr. Frank Swietek, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Dallas and a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS).
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