Melinda And Melinda

Melinda And Melinda

**

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

For some inexplicable reason critics have taken pleasure in announcing that Woody Allen has run out of steam. Perhaps his prodigious work rate - a movie a year since 1976 - threatens those with less robust creative talents.

However, finally (sadly), the moment has arrived when admirers of the great man must take a deep breath and admit to themselves and to those who worship at the shrine of Annie Hall that Melinda And Melinda is so far below par it rates as an after dinner divertissement, lacking memorable jokes, interesting characters or The Woodman himself.

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It begins in the style of My Dinner With Andre and involves, as a gesture of respect to the late Louis Malle, Wallace Shawn chattering away at a table in a New York restaurant. He might be playing Neil Simon, not that it matters, because, as a successful writer of Broadway comedies, his slant on life is that tragedy shall always be with us, but humour makes it palatable. His friend, the author of gloomy novels, thinks laughter is a cop out and truth hides in the detritus of human failure.

They invent a situation that allows the writers to continue the story to its respective ends. At the centre of both is the insecure, neurotic, manipulative figure of Melinda (Radha Mitchell), who appears as emotionally fragile as she is sexually desirable.

In the first scenario, she arrives unannounced at a loft apartment where Laurel (Chloe Sevigny) and Lee (Jonny Lee Miller) are giving a dinner party. She is, it turns out, an old friend from college, who drifted away and fell apart. In the second incarnation, she interrupts another party, given by aspiring film director (Amanda Peet) and her unsuccessful actor husband (Will Ferrell).

For once, Allen's muse deserts him. Always, in the past, you could rely on wicked one-liners and glorious cameo roles. The dialogue is flat this time and there is little joy to be had anywhere. People smoke, drink wine, tell lies and cheat on each other.

Love, that anaemic and misguided concept, is mocked. Sex and alcohol fuel the lives of these unfulfilled people, who struggle to maintain a semblance of optimism in what appears to be a world, polluted by self-indulgence and devoid of decency.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2005
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Two interwoven stories about one woman's life.
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