April 11, 2005

Melinda and Melinda

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Woody Allen’s newest film, Melinda and Melinda makes for an enjoyable movie experience. The story is centered on a philosophical discussion between four friends, two of whom are playwrights, about whether to view life as a comedy or a tragedy. One of the friends gives the facts of a hypothetical situation in which a woman named Melinda (Rhada Mitchell) interrupts a dinner party. Then he asks the playwrights how the story should be told. One playwright devises the tragedy half of the film, which follows Melinda’s never-ending attempts to straighten out her life. In this version of the story, Melinda is an old friend of the dinner party’s hostess and has a wealth of unsolvable problems and self-destructive character flaws. The comic version explores Melinda as an adorable neighbor of the dinner party hosts who forms a friendship with the couple. This Melinda is cute, flirty and thoroughly likeable. The movie switches back and forth between the two different Melindas, imagining a purely dramatic and tragic story of a lost woman and the heart-warming story of a different woman with the same name who brightens the lives of everyone she encounters.

The film addresses the typical issues of relationships and the meaning of life that Woody Allen likes to take on, but the way in which the movie does it is refreshing and original. The separate stories are obviously fictitious and a little stylized, but it works with the premise of the movie. Both story lines have elements of the tragic and the comic, but they are distinctly belonging to their respective genres. The only part of the film that could have been more cohesive would have been to make Melinda the same woman in both stories as opposed to a completely different character. However, it was interesting to see the extent of “creativity” and liberties taken by the writers in the beginning of the film. With the potential to be very clich