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What's the story?
Four friends in a deli debate whether life is comedy or tragedy. One of them describes a moment: at a dinner party, the hosts are trying to impress a guest and a distressed young woman arrives unexpectedly. One of the writers at the table (Wallace Shawn) says that is the perfect opening for a romantic comedy. Another (Larry Pine) says it is the beginning of a tragedy. As each tells the story his way, viewers see it unfolding. There are many parallels between the two versions, with the unexpected guest a woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) in both stories.
Is it any good?
Woody Allen's MELINDA AND MELINDA has a great premise. But while it is surer and more intriguing than the airid Anything Else and Hollywood Ending, it still fails to give us characters who connect in authentic or interesting ways to each other and therefore they never connect to us. As we go back and forth between the two versions of the story, it is often hard to tell them apart even though they have different characters, tones, soundtracks, and directions. That may be important for making Allen's point, which is fine -- that's a good point -- but it is a problem when it comes to the success of the movie. Comic or tragic, a story should be involving and neither one of these stories is.
Allen has addressed the same themes with more insight and wit many times. He has made themes like the fear of death, infidelity, and the longing for love comic and tragic in different movies and sometimes in the same movie. He made the same point he never quite gets to here in fifteen brilliant seconds in Stardust Memories when the supersmart alien tells the, um, alienated comedian who wants to address the tragedies of life, "You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes." That's still good advice, especially if you're making a movie.
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