Cast: Radha Mitchell, Amanda Peet, Will Farrell,
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chloe Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller, Arija Bareikis,
Wallace Shawn, Larry Pine
It has been over ten years since Woody Allen really
made a good film (Bullets Over Broadway, Manhattan Murder Mystery).
Since then, particularly in the last three or four years, Allen’s
films have been among the most sterile comedies on screen. I hate
to say it, but here Allen sinks into another hopeless landscape
of unfunny humor, dull characters, and tedious drama. This film
is a lifeless desert that made me sad for the loss of Allen’s
genius, and deeply disappointed by yet another failure by one of
America’s great cinematic artists. It’s not that the
film is terrible, it’s just that it’s so far beneath
what we expect from Allen that it falls into the category of tepid
filmmaking. And that, for Allen, is a disaster.
The film begins with two playwrights, played by Wallace
Shawn (an old Allen favorite from the days of Manhattan)
and Larry Pine, who are debating about the same
story, told alternately as a tragedy and a comedy. It’s an
interesting set-up, but it’s filmed in a clunky, thoroughly
unoriginal manner. The two stories revolve around the arrival of
Melinda, played by the gorgeous Australian actress Radha
Mitchell (Finding Neverland, High Art), to two
sets of friends’ homes who both greet the startling young
woman with a sense of unease and curiosity. Will Farrell
plays the neurotic, unhappily married husband of Amanda
Peet, who falls in love with Melinda, his downstairs neighbor.
Farrell does his best to bring some sense of goofy fun and whimsy
to the screen, but he doesn’t have much to play with. The
writing is lazy, lacking Allen’s trademark wit and genuine
Flowing back and forth between tragedy and comedy, we are introduced
to numerous couples who are unhappily married to one another, everyone
descending into a world of adultery and fornication. Mitchell does
what she can with Allen’s material, giving a decent performance
as a disturbed young woman who desperately needs some anti-depressants
in the tragic version, while in the comedy she brings to mind the
neurotic instability of Diane Keaton in other Allen
films, most notably Annie Hall. But Mitchell is no Diane
Keaton, and this film is certainly no Annie Hall.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, playing a pianist/composer
named Ellis Moonsong, temporarily brightens up the screen with his
glowing presence and warm performance as a man who can’t seem
to make up his mind about Melinda. As usual, Allen has assembled
a terrific ensemble cast of talented actors, but they can’t
bring a dead fish to life. And that’s basically what this
film is: dead on arrival. Whatever happened to Diane Keaton, Alan
Alda, Angelica Huston, and Diane Weist?
The unfortunate answer: They all moved on to better material.
—Tiffany Crouch Bartlett
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...