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Fox Searchlight

Official Site

Director: Woody Allen

Producer: Letty Aronson

Written by: Woody Allen

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 feel.

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

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

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Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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