Melinda and Melinda Woody Allen

In recent years, the additions to Woody Allen's oeuvre haven't been as praised as they were back in the '70s and '80s. And though his films of late may not have been as brilliant as, say, Annie Hall or Manhattan, they haven't been given as much credit as they deserve. No matter what, Allen is still a great writer and director of both comedies and dramas, and each film he makes (with the exception of a few stinkers) is better than the Starsky and Hutches that continue to top the box office. Both a drama and a comedy, Melinda and Melinda is the perfect example of his skill. Starting with a story told over dinner, the tale evolves through the minds of two filmmakers, resulting in two films: a classic comedy and a tragic love story. Both movies unravel parallel and, much like Sliding Doors, one character takes two separate paths to two completely different results. The serious Melinda interrupts her friends' dinner party to ask if she can stay there since her life has fallen apart and she has nowhere else to turn. The other Melinda also starts by interrupting a dinner party, but in this case the people are complete strangers who live in the same building as her. Both Melindas have a sad story to tell: the comedic one is divorced from her husband and the tragic one lost her children in an ugly custody battle. Though each story only gets half the normal amount of screen time to develop, the characters are fleshed out fully. In the comedy, Will Farrell plays the typical Allen role, and he's only able to pull it off halfway. Farrell creates a subdued personality named Hobie, who is just as unlikely to win the girl as Allen usually is, but, even though he isn't as strange a parody of Allen as Kenneth Branagh was in Celebrity, he often seems forced and out of place compared to the rest of the characters. The drama, as with most, is deeper and more interesting. It also gets more screen time in order to explain the complex plot and fill in the blanks in Melinda's past. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chloe Sevigny are particularly good as Ellis and Laurel, Melinda's boyfriend and best friend, respectively. As well as creating two intriguing storylines, Allen succeeds in making an apt commentary on the art of storytelling and the differences and similarities between comedy and tragedy. The truth is, one life can go many different ways, and, as the two filmmakers in the film say, the ending to either path can be unpredictable. (Fox)