Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review - Melinda and Melinda (2004 - Dir. Woody Allen)

Radha Mitchell managed to get through the first round of the FA Cup of Actors despite a relatively poor showing: 3/10 for Surrogates and 4/10 for Thick as Thieves. Her second round opponent, Ellen Page, has had a good rest since her first entry but Mitchell is thrown straight back into the action with Melinda and Melinda. Will those tired legs let her down or will quality shine through?

Directed by Woody Allen, Melinda and Melinda looks at what happens when you tell essentially the same story as a tragedy or a comedy (it's not exactly the same story but we'll come back to that later). It's all a little bit Sliding Doors and it gives Radha Mitchell a chance to show off her acting chops. Her performance is probably the most impressive thing about this film. Although it's impressive on a technical rather than an engagement level. She plays the two Melinda's in different ways: one is a likeable friendly lady who has problems but is getting on with life, the other is an irritating smoking obsessed curly haired neurotic. Yet the writing didn't lead to me particularly care about either of them.

The story starts with Melinda crashing her friends' dinner party. She's had a bad time with her relationship and needs a place to stay. Her buddies try to set her up with a lucky fellow. But obviously things aren't that simple.

As you can see from above, the story is pretty slight. This is a consequence of the fact that it's told twice. My problem with Melinda and Melinda is that the tragedy isn't that tragic and the comedy, while the better of the two, isn't that funny. In my mind a tragedy should have a really bleak ending, worse than the majority of things that generally happen in real life. Yet here the ending is a tad too pleasant for my liking despite being the downer that tragedies require. It also cheats on the endings because the finale of the comedy is upbeat. I would have liked to have seen exactly the same story told in the two different ways.

The comedy is okay but only ever managed to squeeze a smile out of me (rather than the belly laughs that The Sleeper promotes). I never like the idea of watching Will Ferrell in films. I don't know why but I'm not that keen. Yet I've liked him in the only two films that I've ever seen him in: Elf and this. I never said I wasn't highly irrational. All the way through his performance I could picture Woody Allen: the writing and Ferrell's delivery add up to a quality Woody Allen impression. This was probably the role Allen would have played in the days when he feasibly could have wooed Radha Mitchell.

One upside of Melinda and Melinda is that it has dispelled the horrible visions of Mitchell dancing with Banderas in Thick as Thieves. Here she gets to dance again, with another slimy character, but it's not disturbing in the slightest. This shows that the blame lies squarely at the unmoving feet of Banderas.

To surmise, Melinda and Melinda fails to deliver as either a tragedy or a comedy. And as a drama it fails too due to a lack of empathy for the characters. It seems that playing too many games in a short space of time has led to some serious crampage for Radha Mitchell. It's likely now that the semi-final beckons for Ellen Page (unless Inception or X-Men: The Last Stand come up that is).

If you like this you could also try:
Sleeper, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

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