Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by:Woody Allen
Starring: Rhoda Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, Johnny Lee Miller, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet
Released: May 26, 2005
Grade: B+

Melinda & Melinda begins with four playwrights in a restaurant discussing whether the world is tragic or comic.  To settle the argument, one of the fence-sitters starts telling a story about a girl named Melinda.  The scene fades out and we rejoin our quartet at the end of the story.  Sy sees humour in the story and thinks it could be made into a great comedic screenplay.  On the other hand, Max sees tragedy in this tale and envisions an equally impressive dramatic screenplay.  And so each is then given an opportunity…

What we then have are two different stories laid out before us.  To best describe it, I can only suggest you think Sliding Doors, only better.  There are many similarities in the two stories but they each have a different cast and a different setting.  The only common link between the two is Australian actress Rhada Mitchell who plays Melinda in both versions.

In the drama, Melinda has left her husband and turns up at the front door of an old school friend, Laurel (Sevigny).  She looks a mess and Melinda tells Laurel a surprising story of how she killed a man several months ago and spent time in a mental institution.  Somewhat stunned, Laurel asks Melinda to move in with her for a short time, although this doesn’t sit well with Laurel’s husband Lee (Miller).  Laurel is then determined to find Melinda a new man – one that can help get her life back on track.

In the comedy, Melinda befriends a young married couple who live in her apartment building.  Hobie (Ferrell) is a quirky actor and Susan (Peet) is a budding film director trying to get a start in Hollywood.  Susan is dazzled by the endearing Melinda and hopes to play matchmaker.  She knows a guy who’d be perfect for Melinda.  Unfortunately, Hobie also has an interest in Melinda.  He’s smitten with her and lacking action in his own bedroom, starts the flirting process.

Woody Allen, where have you been?  Allen makes one film every year but his last two struggled at the American box-office and couldn’t find a distributor in Australia.  Instead, they went direct to video.  The last Allen film in Aussie cinemas was 2001’s The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion (which was great I might add).  He has his own style and if you aren’t a fan of previous works, there’s no point watching this.  It’s typical Allen with old-style music, sophisticated dialogue and a nutty cast.  Just what I’ve been waiting for!

I don’t think the stories are as interesting or well written as some of Woody’s other works.  His best films in recent years have been Bullets Over Broadway (1994) and Deconstructing Harry (1997).  There are a few yawns in the middle stages of Melinda & Melinda but you stick with it because you know the ending’s going to be worth it.

If you’re looking for a definitive reason though to see the film, then see it for its uniqueness.  It’s a inspired concept to mix genres within one film by telling two separate stories.  So which will you prefer – comedy or drama?