Woody Allen hit upon a plucky, imaginative concept for "Melinda andMelinda": The same story, of a woman at loose ends, imagined as bothcomedy and tragedy by two playwrights (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine) arguingin a Manhattan cafe whether life is inherently funny or inherently sad.
While these bookend scenes are uncharacteristically clunkyand deliberate, full of exposition designed to set the fictional stage,the two parallel stories are pure Woody Allen at his ironic, neurotic,romantic, poignant and peculiar best -- and they're deftly woven togetherto compliment and play off each other.
The underappreciated Radha Mitchell (she played wives in"FindingNeverland," "PhoneBooth" and "Manon Fire") may now get the recognition shedeserves with her remarkable performances in the dual title role as a flighty,suicidal beauty who arrives in each story by crashing a dinner party.
One Melinda is a new downstairs neighbor who knocks onthe Upper East Side door of wannabe filmmaker Amanda Peet (who flirts withrich men hoping they'll fund her independent movie "The CastrationSonata") and her husband, neurotic out-of-work actor Will Ferrell(the picture's requisite Woody surrogate, although with unpredicted nuanceFerrell makes the role his own). Pratfalling into the dining room, Melindaannounces she's just taken two dozen sleeping pills. The comical chaosthat ensues leads to friendships, infidelities and unrequited love, allorbiting around Melinda -- although she's largely unaware of the upheavalshe's wrought.
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