-Runtime: 99 minutes -Released on October 29, 2004; March 25, 2005 -Production Companies: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Perdido Productions (uncredited) -Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures -Rated PG-13 -Budget: $3.8 million [1] -Gross:NA -Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

"Melinda and Melinda" Screening Companion

-Melinda and Melinda reminds us there is little to divide comedy from tragedy, and that neither comes exclusively. After all, the tears of sorrow and the tears of joy both come from the same place, and dampen a tissue with equal intensity. [7] -If that seems like an original concept, remember that Woody Allen has been juxtaposing comedy and drama for 30 years. Hannah and her Sisters, and even more-so Crimes and Misdemeanors, did pretty much the exact same thing — tell one funny story and one serious story, and cut between the two. Those films just didn’t feel the need to announce the premise so insistently. [2]
Is this the End? -After 35 years of making movies, Woody Allen finally hit a sustained dry patch at the beginning of the new century. His support from audiences had been dwindling since the late 1980s, but now critics, journalists, and even his loyal fans had begun to turn on him. Most people, including myself, just didn’t think his new movies were as good as they used to be. [2] -In the first half of the decade, Allen’s career appeared to be in free-fall. 2000’s Small Time Crooks was well received, although it was a notable step-down from the tighter, more ambitious movies Allen made in the late 1990s. Following that, he made four films that were widely panned by critics and considered financial bombs. [2] -His movies frequently ripped off material from his older work, and several had been written or conceived decades earlier. The worst part was that they felt rushed, sloppy and indifferent, as if he was just going through the motions. [2] -I’m not sure that Woody Allen will ever again reach the peak of his form. Although it depresses me to think that I will never again see a Crimes and Misdemeanors or Manhattan, I have accepted Woody’s decline and understand that for a filmmaker as prolific as he is (he still pumps out a film a year), there are bound to be disappointments. After last year’s fiasco Hollywood Ending, which I still believe is the worst film he has ever made, I had low expectations for Anything Else. Even in Woody’s less than noble efforts, I feel at home, despite his lack of creativity and refusal to extend himself beyond the same old jokes and situations told in the same way. He rarely tackles a genuine challenge, except of course when he does a period film, which, without exception, are always fantastic and creative. [6] -A.O. Scott wrote in 2005, "At least since"Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989), I have found myself vacillating between encouragement and disappointment, settling more often, and more easily, into the latter. Like others in the dogged, dwindling corps of Woody Allen completists, I occasionally ask myself if the eternally renewed, all-too-frequently dashed hope that each new movie brings is worth all the angst. He has let us down before, and each new effort revives the anxiety that it will happen again. [4] -He continued, "But what if this is not an anxiety at all - not a well-founded fear that an admired artist has lost his touch - but rather an expectation? While it's hard to deny that Mr. Allen's output has been uneven of late, his failures and near-misses seem to provoke a disproportionate - even a neurotic - reaction precisely among those most disposed to admiration. What if we - and by "we" I mean the legions (or at least dozens) of young (or at least gracefully middle-aged) intellectuals (or at least newspaper readers) with battered used-bookstore copies of "Getting Even" and "Without Feathers" at their bedside and long passages of dialogue from"Sleeper" and "Love and Death" in their heads - go to the new Woody Allen movie because we want to feel let down, abandoned, betrayed? We are all aware that the man has problems of his own, but what if the dissatisfaction we feel with his work is, at bottom, our problem?" [4] -That judgment, meant as a rebuke to a public that wants its entertainers to stay put, has hovered over Mr. Allen's work ever since - or has at least recurred, implicitly and overtly, in reviews of it. Of course, quite a few of the movies that followed have been very funny indeed, and there have been several masterly fusions of humor and anguish. But even his most successful movies have been held up against, and have suffered in comparison to, the standard of his earlier work. Not an aesthetic standard - it is hard to deny that his skill and resourcefulness as a filmmaker have grown over the years - but one that is more invidious because it is impossible to live up to. His newer movies - 25 years' worth! - are found wanting because they don't live up to our memories of what the earlier ones meant to us. [4] -Instead of making the movies we expect him to, he stubbornly makes the movies he wants to make, gathering his A-list casts for minor exercises in whimsy and bile that tend not to be appreciated when they arrive in theaters. How could they be? Mr. Allen will never again be his younger self, and his audience, as long as we refuse to acknowledge that fact, will never grow up, guaranteeing our further disappointment. Maybe what we have on our hands is a dead shark. [4] -Roger Ebert wrote in his Melinda and Melinda review, "I cannot escape the suspicion that if Woody had never made a previous film, if each new one was Woody's Sundance debut, it would get a better reception. His reputation is not a dead shark but an albatross, which with admirable economy Allen has arranged for the critics to carry around their own necks." -The real lesson to be learned from Melinda and Melinda is that Woody Allen is more comedically gifted than dramatically gifted, but I think we knew that already. The other lesson is that a Woody Allen movie can be unoriginal, by-the-numbers, and predictable, but still pretty fun. [2]
Woody's "emotional career crescendo" -When I was reviewing Hitchcock’s career, and reached his final film, Family Plot I registered disappointment that it wasn't a “summation” that it didn’t gather together his old motifs, underscore what he was trying to do with film. What I’d failed to notice was that he already had with North By Northwest with its wrong man plot, insignificant mcguffins and Cary Grant; everything after that was atypical. Rewatching Melinda and Melinda, his final New York film before visiting Europe, I have the same vibe; at the end of a five picture deal with Dreamworks, it’s almost as though he’d assumed he might not be making another film and so he’d decided to underline everything he’d done before, like a story arc reaching its emotional crescendo. [3] -Now it’s easy to suggest that this is simply Woody running out of ideas, going over old ground. But they’re too pronounced for them to be simple recycling or coincidence; even after the fumbling Hollywood Ending he’s clearly too engaged with the process for all of these decision not to be deliberate signs. [3]
Trivia -Woody Allen had filmed every movie since 1975’s Love and Death at least partially in New York, but Melinda and Melinda is the last of his movies to be filmed there until 2009’s Whatever Works, and his second-last New York movie ever. [2] -Robert Downey Jr. was cast, but dropped from the film, because the actor's insurance premium was too costly to meet. [1] -Radha Mitchell received her role without an audition. Woody Allen saw her in Ten Tiny Love Stories and liked it so much that he decided to cast her. [1] -During filming, Radha Mitchell was the only actor who had the entire script. The other actors just had their storyline. [1] -Due to the limited budget, Radha Mitchell, an Australian, couldn't have a dialect coach for her role as an American. [1] -Winona Ryder was originally cast as Melinda, but was forced to drop out because no agency would insure her due to her famous arrest for shoplifting. Woody Allen stated in the book "Conversations with Woody Allen" that he wanted to cast Ryder, but he couldn't get a bonding on her. [1] -Woody Allen wrote the screenplay in a month. [1] -Demetri Martin auditioned for the role that was vacated by Robert Downey Jr. and taken over by Will Ferrell. [1] -I watched this movie for the second time about a week ago, but this morning, while I was skimming through it again, I noticed something very strange I’d never noticed before: in the beginning of the movie, it’s Larry Pine who’s arguing in favor of comedy, and Wallace Shawn who’s arguing in favor of tragedy. At some point, and I’m not sure how or why, they switch arguments. Is it possible Allen got confused during the writing/filming, or was this deliberate? [2]
[1] - www.imdb.com [2] - www.everywoodyallenmovie.com [3] - http://feelinglistless.blogspot.co.uk/2010_04_25_archive.html [4] - http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/movies/13Scot.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&ref=woodyallen&adxnnlx=1382036079-YXgF5dKqkSJaQBsqBXbzpg [5] - How Woody Allen Became a Hack - http://www.kqed.org/arts/movies/article.jsp?essid=124365 [6] - http://www.ruthlessreviews.com/1883/anything-else/ [7] - http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=10314&s=Reviews
Critical Reception -Roger Ebert wrote, ""Melinda" fails the standards of most audiences because it doesn't deliver a direct emotional charge. It doesn't leave us happy or sad for the characters, or even knowing which characters we were supposed to care about. That however is not Allen's failure, but his purpose. More than any other film that comes to mind, "Melinda and Melinda" says, clearly and without compromise, that movies are only movies. They're made up of thin air, the characters are not real, they could turn out however the director wants them to. -Roger Ebert also wrote, "Perhaps in Woody Allen's mind, a dinner party is held nightly at which his optimistic and pessimistic selves argue about his next project. "Melinda and Melinda" may be a dramatization of his creative process." -Peter Travers for Rolling Stone write, "Woody Allen is back in fighting form with Melinda and Melinda, a tricky proposition that is two films linked by one remarkable actress — the Aussie beauty Radha Mitchell." -Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, ""Melinda and Melinda" is Woody Allen's first film since "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) that's not dull, flawed, overly nostalgic or some deadly combination of all three. It's not one of his funnier movies -- even "Hollywood Ending," despite some plot problems, had more laughs. But "Melinda and Melinda" is more accomplished, adventurous and original." -Mike Clark of USA Today wrote, "Melinda and Melinda is smart, satisfying and compact but so modest in scale that only true-blue fans will sense — immediately — that it's Woody Allen's best outing in many years." -Every Woody Allen Movie website critic wrote, "If you made a checklist of everything stereotypically associated with Woody Allen movies and then converted that checklist into a screenplay, you’d get something that looks a lot like Melinda and Melinda. Although it’s not as good of a movie, it’s an equally accurate distillation of the Woody Allen ethos as Manhattan or Hannah and her Sisters...Melinda and Melinda doesn’t have an original bone in its body, but at this point, I’m willing to dismiss that as a minor criticism. It’s funny, entertaining and competently filmed, which is enough to easily make it Allen’s best film of the decade so far. This is the kind of movie that would drive a Woody-hater crazy, but if Manhattan, Hannah and her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors are among your all-time favorite movies, Melinda and Melinda will go down nice and easy — like a mediocre, mid-season episode of your favorite TV show." [2] -Wesley Morris for the Boston Globe wrote, "Allen lately has grown tired of complex characters and inventive actors to play them. He appears to be making movies because that's what he's always done, but the love and the ideas and the zip are essentially gone." -In Melinda and Melinda, the problem of inconsistent tone creeps in. Here, a group of dinner party guests argue over whether a particular story is more effectively told as comedy or tragedy. We then see alternating versions, told in each style. But Allen's writing is so undisciplined, you frequently forget which version you're watching. [5] -Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central wrote, "A sad state of affairs when what was once the most vibrant satirical force in American film is now a black hole that only a lucky few can escape." -Lovefilm had a poll of the worst films of the preceding twelve months. Viewers ranked it fifth. [3] -53% Rotten Tomatoes rating