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Melinda and Melinda

An interesting but ultimately less than rewarding experiment from Woody Allen, 2004's MELINDA AND MELINDA follows two different paths.

The film opens with two couples, theatre veterans and writers, discussing the merits of comedy and drama. As the conversation evolves, they create a woman at a pivotal point in her life. One writer describes the comedy that evolves from her situation, the other the dramatic, with the viewer seeing both paths.

Radha Mitchell (Man On Fire, Olympus Has Fallen) is very good as Melinda in both stories.

In the comedy half of the film, Melinda is the neighbor of a couple (Amanda Peet and Will Ferrell) whose party she crashes, immediately capturing the husbands attention.

In the drama half, she crashes a dinner party of an old friend and her husband (Chloe Sevigny and Jonny Lee Miller). She also meets a concert pianist (a terrific Chiwetel Ejiofor) with interesting consequences.

With one half of the film rolling out light comedy to a jazz score and the other half dolling out dour proclamations and suicide attempts, it can be a jarring flow.

Ferrell seems badly cast throughout, with his funniest moments of physical comedy feeling out of place.

Allen seems to be meandering about as he tells the story. It has brilliant moments, and any scene between Mitchell and Ejiofor is worth the price of admission, but in the end it feels like a failed experiment.

This was the last film that Allen made in New York for five years, deciding to try something very different in both genre and location by moving his films to Europe for the next five movies. When this film was released, Allen said "I would like to have made a picture just about the serious part." Which of course he then did in London.

"Match Point" followed this and reinvigorated Allen's creativity and his box office draw.

MELINDA AND MELINDA serves more as the coda to a long period of his career than as any great example of his talent, earning a very middle of the road C.

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