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Woody Allen
Will Ferrell, Amanda Peet, Andy Borowitz, ChloŽ Sevigny, Wallace Shawn, Jonny Lee Miller, Radha Mitchell, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Writing Credits:
Woody Allen

Life can be a comedy or a tragedy, it all depends on how you look at it.

You'll "laugh till it hurts" (Rolling Stone) watching comedy superstar Will Ferrell lead a talented ensemble cast in this innovative and seriously funny film. Legendary writer/director Woody Allen tells a woman's story twice - once as a comedy, once as a drama. When emotionally desperate Melinda (Radha Mitchell) crashes a Manhattan dinner party, the chaos that ensues leads to romantic temptations and unexpected love affairs. Ferrell delivers a laugh-out-loud performance as a neurotic, out-of-work actor who falls for Melinda's quirky charms.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$74.238 thousand on 1 screen.
Domestic Gross
$3.825 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 10/25/2005

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Melinda And Melinda (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 26, 2006)

2004ís Melinda and Melinda may mark the end of an era. For years, most of Woody Allenís movies concentrated on Manhattan and folks like him and his friends. However, since these never make any money, financing finally evaporated and drove him overseas for support. That led to 2005ís Match Point, a movie set in England.

This seems to be a very good change. Match Point received consistently positive reviews and earned a fortune compared to other Allen movies. It took in more than $20 million, which made it the first Allen flick in almost 20 years to pass that mark. On the other hand, Melinda only earned about $3 million and wasnít viewed charitably by most critics.

Did it deserve better? Nope. Melinda never works.

Melinda starts in a Manhattan restaurant where two playwrights debate whether tragedy or comedy more closely connect with the essence of life. One of their tablemates (Neil Pepe) tells them of a true story he knows. Max (Larry Pine) envisions it as a tragedy, while Sy (Wallace Shawn) sees it as a comedy.

From there we watch the two versions. Both tell the same basic story. An unstable woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) enters the lives of normal folks. In the tragic take, Melinda comes to visit an old friend named Laurel (Chloe Sevigny) and her husband Lee (Jonny Lee Miller), while the comedy has her intrude on folks (Amanda Peet and Will Ferrell) in her apartment building. We learn more about Melindaís troubles as we follow her impact on others.

Hereís the main problem with Melinda: the comedic parts arenít funny, and the tragic scenes arenít dramatic. Frankly, itís tough to tell the difference between the two. Allen uses dark classical music for the tragic side but tosses in light jazz for the comic parts. Thatís the main way you can differentiate the two, especially since the tragic half plays things in such an over the top manner. It enters self-parody territory with its absurdly overwrought moments. How can I take a movie seriously when it includes lines like ďI was determined not to ask you what you saw when you looked right through to my soul when we metĒ?

Donít expect actual amusement from the comedy. The material doesnít seem very different from the tragedy Ė itís all how the actors play it. Ferrell gets stuck in the role as the Woody surrogate, so he develops mannerisms and little more. The comedic actors go for broad and wacky, while the others act like they all want to kill themselves at any moment. Melinda isnít the only depressed member of this group, or at least it seems that way via the sad performances.

At least the comedic side shows some consciousness of the charactersí pretensions. The others are absurdly self-obsessed and too eager to advertise their ďsophisticatedĒ tastes. Ferrell and crew manage to poke fun at those things, though I donít think Allenís heart is in it. These people are too close to home for him, so while heíll jab at them a little, usually he portrays them as ideals.

Melinda boasts an intriguing concept but it fails to exploit it well. It provides an alternate Rashomon in a way. The premise is the best thing about it, though I think it mightíve worked better if the two versions were more identical. Each includes different characters and settings; sure, they share a lot, but there are still many variations. Iíd have preferred to see the comedy/tragedy contrast with more similar tales.

Decent premise aside, Melinda and Melinda is a real clunker. It features some of Woody Allenís worst tendencies and few of his charms. The film makes for a painful 99 minutes of viewing.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus D-

Melinda and Melinda appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Visuals were good but erratic.

The main concerns connected to sharpness. The movie occasionally came across as a bit soft and ill-defined. Those instances popped up mainly during interiors; since those filled a lot of the film, this meant more than a few fuzzy shots. Nonetheless, the flick was usually reasonably detailed. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some light edge enhancement was apparent. I noticed no signs of source flaws.

Colors appeared good. The movie went with a full, somewhat golden palette much of the time, and it depicted the hues with nice definition. They were always rich and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while shadows were fairly clear. Again, the interiors could loo a bit murky, but the film usually was visible and smooth. This was a good transfer but not one that really impressed me.

As always, Woody Allen refuses to acknowledge the existence of multi-channel audio, so Melinda and Melinda offered only a monaural soundtrack. The mix seemed typical and greatly resembled the audio for many other Allen movies. Dialogue was consistently intelligible and reasonably natural, and I heard no concerns related to edginess. Effects came across as acceptably accurate and distinct, and they occasionally showed decent low-end response.

Music fell into the same category, as the score - which consisted entirely of jazz and classical recordings - was fairly bright with reasonable fidelity; due to the sources, bass response stayed lackluster but range seemed acceptable nonetheless. It was another satisfying mono mix, but it lost points for its lack of ambition; Melinda sounded good, but by default, a single-channel track from 2004 doesnít deserve a grade above ďC-ď.

A promo for Separate Lies opens the DVD. And thatís it for extras! Nothing else shows up on the disc.

For every good Woody Allen flick, he makes a dud. Too bad that Melinda and Melinda falls into the latter category. Despite a clever premise, the movie never entertains or intrigues. It dispels all potential charm and does little more than grate. The DVD offers good picture with bland audio and no extras. Skip this lackluster release of a weak film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.4 Stars Number of Votes: 10
5 3:
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