Melinda & Melinda
0 out of 10
Woody Allen's Worst Woody Rubbish
Nothing succeeds like success and Hollywood's blind, almost quasi-religious belief that past performance is a guarantee of future success has done more than other law or tradition in history to lock out fresh talent to ensure that works by the burnt out writers fill our culture with trash. Melinda and Melinda is a prime example. Decades have passed since Woody Allen broke upon the scene and he has long since developed in to writer whose ego has long since lost touch with reality, resulting in utter tedious tosh.
In his typical post-modernist style, Allen uses the old device of a story inside a story, but unlike "Midsummer Night", the result is less like Shakespeare and more like the sort of project that would fail a kid his Grade 4. Opening with two drunk writers in a restaurant, each tells how he would develop a story of an unexpected visitor one night. The idea of superimposing both stories about Melinda, played by Radha Mitchell, famed for a jaw Superman would feel jealous about, would seem to be an interesting one, but trapped inside his little world of Manhattan, Allen's artistic vision has become so limited that the two tales of suicidal Melinda and of murderous Melinda are almost identical. By the fifteen minute mark, it is impossible to tell who is who, not least because YOU JUST DON'T CARE - in fact, the only thing that fills your mind is "Where's the remote? I gotta turn this trash off." For this is not the real life New York of Ho's and Hobo's, but one of horny Hobey's, living in the picturesque Manhattan Village of SoHo where rich white liberal folk with negligible jobs and 100% disposable income, wander from one friend's bed to another in a total moral vacuum.
With Allen directing it himself, he can't blame "Melinda & Melinda" on the production team, not least as he is even is sloppy to the point of crass in this regard too. For instance, in one irrelevant scene that seemed to be begging to be shown the cutting room floor, the shoot was done at a house by a pool with acoustics so attrocious that the resulting sound quality is barely on par with the era of silent films. No, utterly unfunny, "Melinda & Melinda" was simply written for his little clique, and Woody Allen is content to fill our screens with the most annoying of yapping Yankies spouting endless, unintelligible high-brow tosh on crummy sets shot with lacklustre camera angles. Indeed, when Chiwetel Ejioforis continues his campaign to squander his talent and chances away, here playing the token black character, Ellis Moonsong, he is introduced playing the piano. Clearly in Allen's mind, showing him to be cultured must have seemed essential in case his intended audience of Manhattan's white artsy elite would expect Ellis to start swinging through the trees and stuffing his face full of bananas. Meanwhile, amongst the rest of a cast of actors and actresses who would be more suited to asking "Would you like fries with that, sir?", Will Ferrell turns up as Hobey, the murderous Melinda's potential beau, in what must surely be his finest ever performance with his acting reaching up to levels that can only be described as sheer shite.
By halfway, as your hunt down the back of the sofa for the converter has becomes a frantic life-or-death struggle to get it off the screen, suicidal Melinda announces how she wants to end it all. Quite apart from knowing precisely how she's feeling, you start to feel anger why Allen had not thought likewise about the whole project at this point.
Cinema works best when people watch a film that takes them away from their petty problems and workaday stresses, not exposing them to other people's - a concept that seems lost on Woody Allen's ego. The result? A humourless flick that feels like a PR film for holding a pogrom for the liberal artsy "in crowd" folk of New York. At 67, it is Woody Allen's 34th film... and, with quality like this, we hope his last.
PR Film For A Pogrom Of Artsy New Yorkers
Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett