Melinda and Melinda (12A)

Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Screening at FACT from 6th-13th May 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Is life tragic or comedic? I thought it could be both, as well as a whole lot of other things. But according to two writers arguing in a swanky restaurant, it has to be one or the other for some reason. Just in case you have trouble making up your mind, they illustrate their arguments with two different stories about a woman called Melinda (Radha Mitchell) who knocks on someone’s door during a dinner party. Why? Because they are the kind of people who have nothing better to do than settle down to a pretentious argument in a swanky restaurant.

The tales boast all the usual ingredients of a Woody Allen film. There’s your middle class angst, your wordplay and your cod philosophy. Once - three decades ago - it might have been alright. But this has been the basis of his entire career. It’s not my world, and it almost certainly isn’t yours either.

The two Melindas have both had overblown, drama queen lives. One of her friends frets over whether she’ll get $2 million to make an arty flick about eunuchs and the other is a ‘Park Avenue Princess’ who…well, I’m not quite sure what she does, but I’m sure it’s very annoying. Everyone drinks wine by the bucketload, because it’s a nice middle class way of degrading yourself, and everyone swaps jokes about being ‘postmodern in bed’. Will Ferrell is the only performer troubled by an ounce of charisma, but he’s only impressive because he refuses to take the grating pomposity seriously. Unfortunately, his appearances are few and far between.

So, is life tragic or comedic? According to one of the Melindas it is ‘ultimately pointless’. Maybe so, but at least occasionally there is a fleeting glimpse of meaning. I just wish the same could be said of this appallingly smug and self-satisfied movie.

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