Woody Allen's 34th Film, Melinda & Melinda, tells two parallel stories centered on Melinda (Rhada Mitchell) who drops by unannounced at her friend's dinner party. In each version, Melinda plays the catalyst, allowing her circle of friends to bounce off her, with both tragic and comic results. Allen uses a couple of playwrights sitting in a restaurant to start off the story. Both have a seemingly opposite perspective on human drama, one says we can't help but cry at life's misfortunes, the other insists we must laugh. Both are true.
As the stories unfold, the theme of relationships and adultery takes center stage, a common theme in many of Allen's film. This film, however, lets us explore the relationship we have with the characters. We are led through alternate universes that ultimately envelope all of the dynamics of human relationships.
The film cuts back and forth between the happy and the sad turn of events in each version, there is a beautiful overlap that enables us to laugh at the tragedy and sob at the silliness. This is Allen's genius. By essentially showing us two rough drafts of the same story, each progressing whimsically, we begin to appreciate the whole of human drama. If you are a fan of his previous work (Annie Hall, Manhattan) you will no doubt feel the many elements of Allen's complex characters expressed through the plethora of top notch actors.
Chloe Sevingy, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Neil Pepe and Amanda Peet pull off some stellar acting in their roles as Melinda's old college buddies and their husbands/boyfriends. A pleasant surprise comes from Will Ferrell's performance. The fact that he avoids playing his usual spastic characters and reveals himself as a funny and endearing husband really makes his presence worthwhile. As is inevitable in many a Woody Allen film, there are some infidelities between the main characters that bring us into conflict and drama. But it is through their interpretations that we can not only identify with their humanity but we can always sit back and enjoy life and occasionally even laugh at it.