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Melinda and Melinda

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for adult situations involving sexuality, and some substance material.

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Comedy Drama
Length: 1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release: 2005
USA Release: March 18, 2005
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Featuring Chjwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Radha Mitchell, Amanda Peet
Director Woody Allen
Producer Letty Aronson
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures. Trademark logo.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, a sister company of 20th Century Fox, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Life can be a comedy or a tragedy, it all depends on how you look at it.

Woody Allen’s latest film “Melinda and Melinda” is an interesting endeavor that does something innovative with film form, but the content has much to be desired. The concept presents two scenarios for the main character, Melinda, showing her in one that is tragic and one that is comic—in order to debate that life is either one of these. But in the end, the only point that is made is that when life is over, it’s over.

Melinda (Radha Mitchell) is leading a life that is in shambles and falls into a group of friends who try and help her get her life straightened out. In the tragic scenario, she pays a surprise visit to some old friends from school during their dinner party, including her best friend, Laurel (Chloe Sevigny). In the tragic scenario, she is more of a stranger to the group, being a fellow tenant in their apartment building, including Hobie (Will Ferrell). Melinda clearly ruffles the feathers of each scenario, but, depending on which version of the story, the other characters’ lives have either a happy or a sad ending.

Suffice it to say that the innovativeness of this film form is quite interesting. After both the tragic scenario and the comic scenario are set up, the entire movie progresses as we cut back and forth between each. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing, but overall it is done very intelligently. The characters in each (i.e., the out of work actor), as well as the various scenarios (i.e. the double date) are shown back to back so as to compare a tragic version of it with the comic. What helps it be less confusing is the fact that the characters, while similar to each other in the different scenarios, are played by completely different actors. (For example, the out of work actor in the tragic scenario is played by Jonny Lee Miller and the one in the comic is played by Will Ferrell). The form alone is something to be appreciated here.

Addressing the content of the film, it really didn’t offer much in the way of inspiration or edification. Most every situation dealt with broken relationships, broken marriages, affairs, divorces, suicide, alcoholism, and people’s lives being generally unhappy. It is clearly for adult audiences. However, there are various humorous moments, particularly with Will Ferrell’s scenes. There is also some foul language, including taking Christ’s name in vain. There is also a very brief moment with two people in bed, but there is no nudity. However, Melinda’s character is rather scantily clothed throughout the film.

Because of the interesting concept, the movie did not become uninteresting. However, because of the concept, it felt like some of the aspects of this film were a contrived. The dialog seemed a bit forced. I had a hard time believing some of the characters, and sometimes it sounded like they were improvising. Also, in order to make the tragic scenario end sadly and the comedic scenario end happy, it felt like some of the changes in the characters were very abrupt. For example, Melinda tells Hobie she is in love with someone else before he gets the chance to tell her of his love for her. But then shortly afterward, she changes and is suddenly in love with Hobie. It seemed to happen for the sake of happening, rather than naturally building through the situations. Because of these things, it was hard to believe the sincerity of the characters.

This film is not without its merits. The innovation in form is appreciated, but most of the content is not. A more uplifting story might have taken this film far beyond what it is and served its purpose better.

Violence: None / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor

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