A bunch of guys are discussing philosophy in a bar. Two writers with opposed views on life argue about it: is life tragic or comic? To illustrate their theories, they imagine a story of a woman. The comic writer presents the optimistic, bright tale of Melinda, who just accepts life as it goes by. The tragic writer gives us a destructive, lonesome and troubled Melinda, who deals with depression and suicide. Around the two Melindas we can find a variety of interesting characters: a sincere and kind of shy actor and his ambitious wife in the comic tale; an intellectual woman and the gentle pianistshe falls in love with.
Woody's recent efforts weren't much impressive, so everyone was a bit skeptical about his next film. Skeptical because it wasn't a proper comedy and because Woody didn't appear in it. Well, after having seen it, I must say this is the best film the man has directed in the last ten years or so. Not only it is wittier, but more transcendental as well. It feels more personal, and its message is clearer and warmer. Woody teaches us a lesson. Let's not get too excited, though. The film itself is not breathtakingly impressive, but it truly delivers, and is overall rewarding. It features plenty of allenisms and classic Woody situations. Precisely one of the correct complaints about the movie is the feeling of déja vu. The film's premise is original and very well executed, but the setting and characters all seem a bit familiar.
Nothing wrong with that, though. There's plenty of characters and they're all very well crafted by the director: the protagonist, Melinda, is both believable in its two sides. Radha Mitchell is excellent in both parts, switching from comedy to drama smoothly. Will Ferrell is great, and I mean great, portraying the allenistic neurotic - he doesn't merely imitate Woody. Ejiofor and Sevigny are also very adequate in their roles. Overall, none of the characters seems forced; they're all believable and honest. I'd like to comment on the cinematography by veteran Vilmos Zsigmond in his first collaboration with Allen: the photography is by no means revolutionary, but the way the shots were composed was always interesting.
Woody's direction is masterful as always. I'm fascinated at how he alternates and mixes both stories. The pace and editing are mostly effective, as is the usual jazzy score. The dialogues presented are human and dynamic. This is a throughoutly enjoyable, pleasant exercise on love, infidelity, marriage, life, and so on, which while not being specially mesmerizing nor powerful, is sure enlightening: life is short. We shouldn't see it in a pessimistic way, because that doesn't lead anywhere, nor in an exaggeratedly optimistic way. We just got to accept it and enjoy it, because it can end... like that.