omplete QPORIT: MELINDA AND MELINDA

Friday, April 01, 2005

 

MELINDA AND MELINDA


Once again, Woody Allen has made a film that is worth seeing -- strong praise that is appropriate to few films. Creator of one of the largest bodies of great material of any film director (living or not), he has produced an idiosyncratic, personal, thought provoking, funny and serious movie.

Often hilarious, with someone (Will Ferrell) who can make "Woody Allen jokes" really work, this is not just a funny movie, this is also a tragic movie, exploring the same idea from both perspectives.

Set up in a frame, with four dinner companions discussing how a story can be interpreted from either a tragic view of life or a comedic one, the film intercuts between these two versions of the basic theme, with the same lead actress and different supporting casts.

The story is set in sumptuous apartments, amidst musical and tony parties, and theatrical people. It's fun to be -- for a few hours -- in the company of these people working on their lives. (Unfortunately for the box office, however, there are no killings, sexual body parts, or teenagers on screen in the film.)

Radha Mitchell (who plays Melinda ... and Melinda) is quite wonderful in this film, playing two very different versions of the same woman. She looks great, resembling a young Jessica Lange. And she carries her characters' very off-putting behavior in an attractive way.

It's a funny thing about jokes and comedians: If you tell a certain kind of joke once, it's original. If you have someone else tell your jokes the second time, it seems deja vu. But if you get to tell the same kind of jokes all the time (like Bob Hope, and Jay Leno, and Roger Dangerfield) or use the same actor as your muse and representative in several films (like Truffaut and Leaud), you get to be a legend. I'm hoping we see more collaborations between Will Ferrell and Woody Allen. It could burnish the legend.

It's time to resurrect the popularity of Woody Allen films.


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