A Film Review By Jason L. King
|Rating:Rated PG-13 for adult situations involving sexuality, and some substance material.
Starring:Will Farrell, Rahda Mitchell, Amanda Peet
Directed By:Woody Allen
Few people can capture the humor of the everyday lives of human beings. Last year we watched Alexander Payne as he showed us the lighter side of life with Sideways, the story of two complete opposites who go on a bachelor party road trip to wine country. Payne did a fantastic job, but for my money, I can usually count on director Woody Allen to keep me laughing at life’s abnormalities better than any other director in the business. That’s why even though I was a bit skeptical, I was excited to see Melinda and Melinda. The story of Melinda and Melinda begins in a restaurant, as two playwrights are discussing if a comedy or a tragedy is a better art form. One of the other guests begins telling a brief tale of a woman named Melinda, who appears unexpectedly as a houseguest to a young couple. From there he asks, is this tale the makings of a comedy or a tragedy in each writer eyes. The two writers begin telling their take on the “Melinda” story and back and forth they go creating both a tragedy and a comedy out of the Melinda story.
Director Woody Allen is very hit and miss with this film. In his later years, the Annie Hall director has found himself faltering. Films like Hollywood Ending, Anything Else and now Melinda and Melinda remind us that Woody Allen deserves the acclaim he gets, but all “good” things eventually have to come to an end. Some people sit and reminisce of sports dynasties past, like the Lakers, The Chicago Bulls, The Atlanta Braves or the Dallas Cowboys. Movie geeks sit and reminisce of great directors and actors past, like Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Tony Scott and Jimmy Fallon. (Oh wait Fallon doesn’t fit in there at all) None the less Woody Allen does. Snippets of Allen’s humor dances about the script but it just feels too forced. It’s sad to see an old director try to rehash the same ideas over and over again just trying to stumble upon the pulse of a truly great script.
What Allen does do right is pick up a fun cast for his story. On the comedic tale of Melinda he chooses Will Farrell to be the stay at home husband and Amanda Peet as the feminist movie directing wife of Farrell’s. The two play off of each other perfectly, Peet as the power hungry woman and Farrell as the neurotic, nervous, timid, stuttering and stammering husband. In an amazing feat in the movie business, Amanda Peet manages to keep her shirt on the entire film and for once does not look like a coked out whore. Amazing! Farrell does a nice job of essentially being the “Woody Allen” Character of the film. In the past Woody Allen would have played this character, but it’s nice to see the director doesn’t try to fool himself anymore. Perhaps by now he has realized that no one wants to see him with a wife who could be his daughter in comparison. (Too bad he didn’t realize that in real life as well).
Stylistically the movie flows nicely between the two tales and for a minute you almost have to remind yourself that this is the same tale, just being told from a different person’s perspectives. The story does a nice job of being different and yet the same all at the same time. The film falters though because it really feels as though it doesn’t go anywhere in either tale. When Farrell isn’t on the screen the film feels as though it is fizzling, and jut leaves this all around bland taste in our mouth. Top that off with the film ending as abruptly as it starts and the film just plain misses the mark.
In the end, Melinda and Melinda is not a “bad” film by any means. Problem is it isn’t a “good” film either. If you were not a Woody Allen before, this film will not change your mind. And if you were a Woody fan prior to this the film will leave you salivating for something far more that this film can offer. Perhaps it’s because Woody has already given us all he can offer us, or maybe it is because it is a different time and a different place in the world today. Maybe the man’s words just aren’t the same as they used to be. None the less Woody’s new film will quickly leave theaters as unnoticed and unannounced as it came in to theaters. No one will know it existed and those who did will quickly not care.