Fox Searchlight Pictures | Release Date: March 18, 2005
6.0
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Mixed or average reviews based on 53 Ratings
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25
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19
Negative:
9
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5
SpangleFeb 2, 2017
Released in late 2004 in Europe, but early 2005 in America, Melinda and Melinda stands as a testament to the change that was afoot in Woody Allen's career. After this film, he took off to Europe and began filming in various vacationReleased in late 2004 in Europe, but early 2005 in America, Melinda and Melinda stands as a testament to the change that was afoot in Woody Allen's career. After this film, he took off to Europe and began filming in various vacation destinations across the continent. One of the last few New York City shot Allen flicks (Whatever Works and Cafe Society would later represent brief returns to the city he loves), Melinda and Melinda is a mixed bag. Touching on typical Allen themes, the film poses the question: is life more tragedy or comedy? Set during a dinner conversation between two playwrights, one a comic writer and the other a tragedy writer, both pose theories based on a story offered by a mutual friend. The setup: a couple is hosting a dinner party and a woman randomly shows up at their door. The two playwrights envision two entirely scenarios in which a woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) knocks on the door of a dinner party unexpectedly. One goes tragically and the other turns comedic. Which is the actuality of life and better captures the likelihood of the mystery behind this girl?

In the tragic tale, Melinda is a woman damaged. After cheating on her husband, killing her lover, and losing custody of her children, she shows up at the front door of a couple, Lee (Jonny Lee Miller) and Laurel (Chloe Sevigny), as they entertain. Now, this couple are people she knew in college and had planned to stay with months ago, but a suicide attempt on Melinda's part got in the way. While with them, she meets and falls for a musical man named Ellis (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Unfortunately, things do not work, Lee and Laurel's marriage falls apart, a lawyer she consults cannot help her with her custody case, and Melinda winds up wanting to kill herself. By the end, Laurel resolves that Melinda will always need help. In this section, the tragedy is quite clear. Her life is horrible, though some is self-inflicted. Much of this section falls flat comedically, however. As a Woody Allen film, one would expect some more comedic lines, but there is nothing here. I looked for comedy here simply because the tragedy seems so ineffective. Melinda is unlikable and probably brought all of this on herself by killing a man in cold blood and cheating out of boredom. She is unsympathetic and not a good main character. The first half of the film heavily focuses on this story unfortunately and Melinda here is simply not easy to like. While the acting here is great, especially by Mitchell in a scene where she spills her heart and past to Ejiofor, little works until she meets Ejiofor. When the two are together, the film really does click and the tragic playwright finds some magic in the darkness.

In the comedy section, Melinda arrives at the home of Hobie (Will Ferrell) and Susan (Amanda Peet). As Allen is a comedy writer, this section really zips at times, especially in the second half. A damaged woman who arrives after having downed 24 sleeping pills, the section quickly becomes charming as she as Hobie begin to fall for one another. Fearing hurting his wife, Hobie consults best friend Walt (Steve Carell) as to what he should do. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual between he and his wife and they have an awkwardly easy split where the duo just agree it is over. Now free to chase Melinda, the duo fall in love after spending some time with other people - Melinda with a regular guy who is quite nice and Hobie with a Republican Playboy mode. Ending on a happier note, the section is largely quite witty with Ferrell playing the Woody Allen character. It is funny throughout with Ferrell delivering good Elf-like performance in regards to the innocence and authenticity of his character. He plays the neurotic man quite well and delivers the witty and smart lines with ease. When this section takes focus, Melinda and Melinda is at its most enjoyable and is often incredibly funny, mainly because it plays to Allen's strengths as a writer/director.

A film about whether life is more tragic or comedic, the answer is simple: it is both. The film very clearly shows that tragedy does not work quite as well without some comedic lightness to liven it up and comedy lacks stakes or the final bit of punch without some tragedy. Comedic possibilities are introduced in the tragic storyline and vice versa, but never explored because of the defined focus of the storylines. The end result is an interesting concept, but with two sections that do not work quite as well as intended and prove that tragedy and comedy need each other to work. In isolation, the duo tend to just tread water.
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5
J-ShapOct 10, 2011
Melinda and Melinda is not a particularly bad film, but just a limp one. In many ways, that's worse. The switching between a comic and tragic interpretation of the same movie keeps afloat with thought, but the film itself is rather empty, andMelinda and Melinda is not a particularly bad film, but just a limp one. In many ways, that's worse. The switching between a comic and tragic interpretation of the same movie keeps afloat with thought, but the film itself is rather empty, and neither story is particularly strong on its own. Expand
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4
TonyB.Jan 3, 2006
Although it has an interesting premise, there is really only one reason to see this film, and that is Radha Mitchell's performance, one of the best of the year.
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