I have not liked the last several Woody Allen films. I would have to say the last one I didn’t want to turn off in the middle (or even at the beginning) was Small Time Crooks (2000). And, even that one, I only liked…a little. So, when I got Melinda and Melinda, my first thought was, “Why the heck did I put this on hold?” Regardless of the reason, I decided to watch it…mostly since I had no other DVDs to watch at the time. Had this been a week where my coffee table was filled with piles of soon-to-be-due DVDs, I would have probably passed on this one. Well, I’m glad I didn’t pass. The most striking thing about Melinda and Melinda (aside from the fact that it’s actually a funny, original, entertaining Woody Allen film with him NOWHERE to be found among the cast) is the premise, or the gimmick of the plot. Like another film I really liked from 1998, Sliding Doors, Melinda and Melinda’s gimmick is original…involving how ONE plotline pans out in two different ways. Sliding Doors focused on TIME…how a split second of time difference changes the course of everything that happens after. Melinda and Melinda uses a different but just as original twist…the same story told from two different angles—one, a romantic comedy and the other, a drama. The only “like” character in both story variations is Melinda, played in both the comedy and drama by Radha Mitchell. Aside from her, all of the other characters differ in each story, as not to confuse the viewer. In both stories, Melinda is a troubled soul with a good deal of emotional baggage who finds temporary help with a group of friends. I found it fascinating how her personal troubles easily transformed from comic to serious…just by changing some minor elements. Director Woody Allen is able to turn a dramatic character trait of Melinda’s around and use that same trait for comic effect in the other storyline. Pretty original for Allen…and the end result is a funny, touching film that might not be some of Allen’s best work ever but is some of the best work he’s done in recent years.
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