review for Melinda and Melinda on AllMovie

Melinda and Melinda (2004)
by Perry Seibert review

Composing two different stories, one a comedy and the other a tragedy, from the same basic story elements should provide any writer with copious opportunities to express the many ways art can comment on life. Sadly, the two stories in Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda fail to generate any comedic or dramatic momentum. The comedy portion of the film suffers from just about every complaint leveled against Allen films from this period: his references are out of date, he is unable to create a comic voice other than his own for his male leads, and his lack of respect for comedy reveals itself through the lazy visuals. All the dialogue spoken by the characters in the tragedy sounds like subtitles, a problem that has hounded Allen's dramas since Interiors. Because of this flatness, none of the characters can win an audience's empathy or interest. Chiwetel Ejiofor somehow manages to break free and make his dialogue sound natural. He may not say anything or do anything memorable, but he registers as a real person. The scene in which he and Melinda first meet is the best scene in the film because it is the only one that plays like two regular people talking. Chloƫ Sevigny keeps trying and Brooke Smith (who gets the best laughs of the film) seems ideally cast, but both are eventually betrayed by the material. What makes Melinda and Melinda so depressing for longtime Woody Allen fans is that Allen has come up with a fantastic concept, but fails to come up with any worthy material to support the idea.