A review of “Melinda and Melinda” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

 

 

I’m a sucker for fate, be it six-degrees-of-separation, parallel universes or a fluttering butterfly in Somalia causing a tidal wave in Santa Cruz. 

Bypassing his distinctive straight-for-the-jugular psychosis, Woody Allen fashions a crowd-pleasing romantic dramedy that speaks to the mystical concept of “what if?”

What if our narrative was a droll comedy of life, love and the dizzying heights of mad crushes?  Radha Mitchell (finally delivering on the promise she displayed in High Art) is Melinda, a bemused divorcee who lives in a duplex across the hall from happy-go-lucky but out-of-work actor Hobie (Will Ferrell) and his struggling movie producer wife Susan (Amanda Peet).

Melinda stumbles into one of the couple’s dinner parties thanks to an overdose of pills and booze and Hobie is instantly smitten by her fragile beauty. But how to extract himself from his complacent marriage? So it goes with a gentle roundelay of regret, romance and happier places.

What if the story took on a more tragic tone? The flip side is the wretched life of Melinda (Mitchell again), an old high school chum of a Park Avenue princess named Laurel (Chloë Sevigny) who is hitched to alcoholic playboy actor Lee (Jonny Lee Miller). 

Melinda crashes Laurel and Lee’s dinner party and brings a truckload of neuroses to the table, spinning a sordid yarn of divorce, betrayal and suicide attempts.  She’s attempting to put the pieces back together which won’t be easy considering the hidden agendas of back-stabbing friends and lovers.

Allen downplays his trademark angst but can’t help hypothesizing the sticky wickets of contemporary existence. To wit, tragedy often controls comedy but there is no one definitive essence of life. 

This cerebrally frothy charmer is an easygoing, sometimes pointless rumination on the tenuous overlap of happy and sad, success and failure. You only go around once so make the best of it.