Sunday, August 18, 2013

Melinda and Melinda

Written and directed by Woody Allen, Melinda & Melinda is the story about two women with the same name who live very different lives as four people discuss about the ideas of life in the form of a tragedy and a comedy. The film is an exploration into the world of how life works in a natural setting whether it’s in the form of tragedy or in a comedy as its titular characters are played by Radha Mitchell. Also starring Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Sevigny, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Amanda Peet, Larry Pine, Vinessa Shaw, Josh Brolin, Brooke Smith, and Wallace Shawn. Melinda & Melinda is a superb and engaging comedy-drama from Woody Allen.

The film is about the life of two women with the same name as they’re the subject of how life is as two men (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine) have a discussion with two other people (Neil Pepe and Stephanie Roth Haberle) about how does life work. In the one spectrum, there’s the tragic Melinda who is a woman with a very troubled life as she unexpectedly stays over at a friend’s house where she falls for a musician only for things to get complicated. In other spectrum, there’s the comic Melinda as a woman who unknowingly crashes a dinner party as she catches the eye of an actor whose wife is an independent filmmaker who tries to set Melinda up with other men. It’s all plays to the scheme of things in the way life works out as it raises the question about how life can be defined by tragic or comic circumstances.

Woody Allen’s screenplay does have an interesting concept about the ideas of comedy and tragedy and how they can drive one person’s life. Though there’s parts in the story that does drag things a bit, it does play into the way the two Melindas would go in their life. On the tragic spectrum, there’s Melinda trying to find some idea of happiness in her life as she falls for this musician named Ellis (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is quite charming as well as sympathetic to Melinda’s own personal issues. Yet, Ellis also wins the attraction of Melinda’s friend Laurel (Chloe Sevigny) who is married to a struggling actor named Lee (Jonny Lee Miller) as she doesn’t want to do something that would send Melinda into a bigger downward spiral. In the comic portion of the film, Melinda is a woman trying to find new love as she seeks the help of her neighbors in Hobie and Susan (Will Ferrell and Amanda Peet) where Hobie falls for Melinda but has no idea how to tell Melinda or Susan.

Allen’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of compositions yet he does manage to create a lot of situations where it would mirror the two different portions of the film. Notably in scenes of how Melinda arrives or her reaction to a certain situation that would play into the two different spectrums about life. Though there’s a few moments that does drag the story in the tragic portion of the film while the comedy aspects of it would lighten things up. It does make the film uneven in some ways though both stories do showcase some compelling arguments of the tragedy of comedy and tragedy where it would briefly cut to the two writers having dinner and discuss their side about how life works. Overall, Allen creates an engaging and enjoyable film about the way life works.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key yet intimate look of the French bistro the Melindas go to as well as some of the locations in New York City that would play to their adventures. Editor Alisa Lepselter does brilliant work with the editing from the use of transitions that range from smooth to abrupt at times in order to help move the story along with some stylish cuts to play out some of the humor and drama that occurs. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Regina Graves and art director Tom Warren, does nice work with the set pieces from the different apartments that the Melindas stay in to some of the places the women go to including the French bistro.

Costume designer Judy L. Ruskin does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual while adding some differences to the different look of the two Melindas where the tragic is more disheveled while the comic is more refined. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound to play up the atmosphere of some of the parties that occur including some of the other places the characters go to. The film’s soundtrack is amazing as it features a different array of jazz and classical pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Duke Ellington, Dick Hyman, Erroll Garner, and some R&B music from Barry White.

The casting by Juliet Taylor is fantastic for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Neil Pepe and Stephanie Roth Haberle as the friends in the discussion table along with notable small performances from Shalom Harlow as a dinner guest of Lee and Laurel, Brooke Smith as a friend of Laurel and Melinda in Cassie, Steve Carell as Hobie’s friend Walt, Vinessa Shaw as a woman Hobie meets, Daniel Sujata as a man the comic Melinda meets, Zak Orth as Cassie’s husband, and Josh Brolin as a friend of Susan whom she tries to set the comic Melinda with much to Hobie’s disgust. Larry Pine and Wallace Shawn are terrific as the two writers who drive the discussion of how life works with Pine favoring tragedy and Shawn in favor of comedy as the two have great rapport together.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is amazing as the musician Ellis whom the tragic Melinda falls for as he is very kind to her while he is also attracted to Laurel. Jonny Lee Miller is very good as Laurel’s struggling actor husband Lee who doesn’t really like Melinda as he secretly hides his own affairs from Laurel. Chloe Sevigny is excellent as Laurel as a woman who is trying to help the tragic Melinda while dealing with her attraction towards Ellis. Amanda Peet is wonderful as Susan as a woman who tries to help the comic Melinda find love while dealing with her own issues in trying to get funding for her film. Will Ferrell is brilliant as Hobie as a man who falls for the comic Melinda as he tries to deal with his feelings while Ferrell adds some subtle comedic approach to his character.

Finally there’s Radha Mitchell as Melinda and Melinda where Mitchell brings a complexity to the different personas of Melinda as she is ragged and loose as the tragic Melinda who is likely to fall apart. In the form of the comical Melinda, Mitchell is more relaxed but also pretty funny as she definitely brings to spark in her scenes with Ferrell as it’s definitely one of Mitchell’s finest performances.

Melinda & Melinda is a pretty stellar film from Woody Allen thanks to Radha Mitchell’s dual performances as the titular characters. Along with great supporting work from Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, it’s a film that showcases Allen trying to do something new while using old ideas to play out the ideas of comedy and tragedy in the way life works. In the end, Melinda & Melinda is a pretty good film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

© thevoid99 2013


Anonymous said...

Great post! Mitchell gets a Fisti nom from me for this role. It's an amazing performance in a film that should work, but works really well!

thevoid99 said...

I think Radha Mitchell was incredibly overlooked for her performance as I think she was the reason why this film worked.

Alex Withrow said...

I'm glad to see some praise for this flick, even if it is somewhat minor. I agree that it's a pretty decent film, and Mitchell is superb in it. Never understood all the hate for this one.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex Withrow-It maybe minor Woody Allen but still better than most films. Plus, Radha Mitchell is what makes this film so interesting.