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20th Century Fox presents
Melinda and Melinda (2004)

"I had no idea a Republican could be that sexual."
- Hobie (Will Farrell)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: October 25, 2005

Stars: Radha Mitchell, Will Farrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Sevigny, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet
Other Stars: Wallace Shawn, Brooke Smith, Matt Servitto, Zak Orth, Steve Carell, Josh Brolin, Daniel Sunjata
Director: Woody Allen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adult situations involing sexuality, some substance material
Run Time: 01h:39m:06s
Release Date: October 25, 2005
UPC: 024543189299
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+B- D-

DVD Review

Our story begins with four intellectuals sitting around a table discussing the nature of comedy versus tragedy. Does humankind prefer to view light stories or dreary tales of human struggle? Sy (Wallace Shawn) believes in the power of humor, while his friend places his support behind the opposite opinion. This discussion spawns a brief plot synopsis that could be taken into either direction. An attractive young woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) bursts into a dinner party unexpectedly and causes a stir. She arrives with emotional baggage caused by failed relationships, which could affect her differently depending on the narrativeís overall tone.

Woody Allenís Melinda and Melinda utilizes this basic story to depict two versions of Melinda and an interesting group of characters. Radha Mitchell is the only actor in both tales, but many similarities exist between the two storylines. The events shift between the comic and tragic versions, with the original gang of four appearing to describe and eventually bookend everything. The more effective story is definitely the silly option, bolstered considerably by another hilarious performance from Will Farrell as Hobie, the Woody Allen substitute. An unemployed actor being supported by his ambitious director wife (Amanda Peet), Hobie first appears in an apron preparing a meal for his guests. The oddball mannerisms and eventual genuine desire for Melinda make him a lovable figure and the shining star of the film. One particular highlight is his trip to the horse track with Melinda and his buddy Walt (Steve Carell), which allows Farrell to steal the show.

On the other hand, the tragic account is mildly interesting, but a stilted performance from the usually effective Chloe Sevigny and an unfortunate turn from the pregnant Brooke Smith slow down the action. In this version, Melinda crashes an already tense situation between alcoholic actor Lee (Jonny Lee Miller) and his wife Laurel (Sevigny). Mitchell does a solid job in presenting an even-more disturbing past for Melinda, but several scenes grind the story to a halt. Chlwetel Ejiofor raises the energy level as a passionate composer who catches both Melinda's and Laurelís eyes, but he can only do so much to enliven the material. The action on this side is also a bit too predictable for Allen, who normally brings more complexity to his dramatic work.

Woody Allenís recent films (Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending) have received considerable critical lambasting as inferior to his past work, but each story has its own worthwhile aspects and complaints often miss the point. Melinda and Melinda is a more ambitious undertaking, and for the most part it succeeds. Allen could have easily stretched out the comic half and relied on Farrell to carry the story, but instead he experiments a bit and crafts a memorable look at the relationship between comedy and tragedy. Much of the success occurs due to the standout performance from Mitchell, who makes both characters believable even when placed next to the other. Although they have the same name, each woman stands as her own person and never becomes intertwined with the other Melinda. The story may drag at certain moments, but Allen deserves credit for taking a chance and tackling an intriguing project.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Melinda and Melinda is available in two versions. The superior one is easily the 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer, which presents the New York setting impressively. The full-frame version will be acceptable to viewers who detest the black bars, but it falls short in every fact. The widescreen transfer offers a solid picture with a minimal amount of grain or defects. It lacks the pristine colors and sharp images of the best releases, but it still performs well.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: This release only includes a mono transfer, in accordance with Woody Allen's wishes for the film. It does present the dialogue clearly and effectively, which is the story's most important element. The volume is fairly low, and the audio is obviously very centralized, but the overall experience is acceptable. Allen's films never require bombastic sound to succeed, and while an enhanced transfer could have help with the music and background sounds, it does not ruin the picture.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Separate Lies
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This release includes no extra features (save for a pre-menu trailer of Separate Lies), which is not a surprise, since it's a Woody Allen film, but still is disappointing.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Melinda and Melinda's presentation of two, tonally different versions of the same story is not for all tastes, but viewers looking for a different approach should enjoy the multiple perspectives. Woody Allen has always walked the line between comedy and tragedy, and he blurs it further with this clever film.


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