Is life a tragedy or a comedy? This sophomoric question kicks off Woody Allen’s new film Melinda and Melinda, as two playwrights sitting in a NYC bistro on a rainy night spin two very different tales, one tragic, one comedic, about a troubled woman named Melinda who shows up unannounced at a dinner party. Melinda and Melinda. Get it?
The film comes to life on screen as the playwrights piece together the narratives that involve the likes of Radha Mitchell (Melinda), Chloë Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller, Amanda Peet and Will Ferrell, a group of well-to-do New Yorkers who host dinner parties and enjoy spending their evenings listening to Bartok while discussing the finer points of art.
In Melinda and Melinda you get two films for the price of one, with Allen creating intricately wound stories rich with interesting characters, including Greg (Josh Brolin) who likes to jump on a trampoline for cardiovascular exercise and go on African safaris to hunt big game.
Working both sides of the room for psychoses and laughs is the lovely Mitchell, who recently appeared in Finding Wonderland and the bloody revenge flick Man on Fire. Mitchell moves easily from the chain-smoking, tragic Melinda with natty hair and sunken eyes to they quirky, bubbly comedic Melinda.
But the film’s gimmicky hook is also its eventual downfall.
We all love a good tragedy. There are few actors better suited to embody a moody, NY socialite than Chloë Sevigny, who performs with a pinch of detachment, as if surprised she’s in movies rather than teaching philosophy at NYU. But as beautiful as she is to watch, audiences are left waiting impatiently for Will Ferrell’s neurotic Hobie to reappear on screen and crack them up.
Ferrell is a comic genius who can make you nearly piss your pants laughing just by saying the words “Chilean sea bass with caramelized phyllo dough” over and over again. Ferrell outshines the rest of the characters whose stories become down right boring in comparison. Does anybody really care about a troubled, pill-popping Manhattan socialite’s fall from grace? Not when the alternative is Ferrell.
Melinda and Melinda, written and directed by Woody Allen, is currently playing at Smárabíó. See www.kvikmyndir.is for showtimes.