Preview by: Jack Foley
WOODY Allen may have lost his touch, according so the majority
of critics, but he continues to attract some pretty interesting
His latest ensemble features one of his most eye-opening of recent
years, most notably because of the presence of former Saturday
Night Live comedian, Will Ferrell.
Needless to say, it proved one of the biggest press draws of
The London Film Festival and looked
set to be a popular choice with members of the public.
Yet it didn't arrive without some difficulty.
Robert Downey Jnr was one of several actors initially attached
to the project, who dropped out because of insurance complications,
while Winona Ryder was also touted for the title role of Melinda.
Jason Biggs, of American Pie fame, was also linked, although
he subsequently teamed up with Allen for his last film.
Not that the publicity surrounding the cast changes has harmed
the finished product - merely heightened the interest, given the
calibre of who Allen has been able to attract.
Aside from the obvious allure of Ferrell, there is also Radha
Mitchell (currently starring as Johnny Depp's wife in Finding
Neverland), as well as Amanda Peet, Jonny Lee Miller, Chiwetel
Ejiofor, Chloe Sevigny and Wallace Shawn.
Yet anyone exepcting a laugh-a-minute comedy which plays to Ferrell's
strengths had better think again.
Melinda and Melinda explores some of Allen's most beloved terrain
- personal struggles with morality, identity, intimacy, jealousy
and the vagaries of romantic love.
The twist, this time, is exposed
in the opening scene, which finds four sophisticated New Yorkers
enjoying a dinner out on a rainy night.
An anecdote provokes a discussion between writers Max (Larry
Pine) and Sy (Wallace Shawn) about the dual nature of human drama,
symbolized by the comedy/tragedy mask of theatre.
Ultimately, the story of Melinda (Mitchell) unfolds in two forms
- one as seen through the eyes of the comic writer, and the other
as explored by the tragic author.
Both centre around the enigmatic Melinda, who is played brilliantly
by Mitchell in both guises.
Needless to say, Ferrell features in the romantic comedy and
helps to enliven proceedings no end, offering a glimpse of future
potential if he were ever to ditch the madcap surrealism of comic
roles in Old School, Anchorman
and Starsky and Hutch.
Says Allen of the project: "It's something that occurs to
me many times in my movies. They can often be treated comically
or dramatically, and I usually opt to treat them comically.
"But it occurred to me that you could get a story and you
could fool around with it in both ways."
And for Ferrell, the offer - which came when he was still relatively
unknown in movies - was too good to resist.
Explains the comedian: "First, I had to get over the headline
of 'Being in a Woody Allen Movie', which, for every actor in general
and comedic actor in particular, is high on the list of big moments
in his career.
"But while it's obviously a comedic character, it was the
most realistic type of character that I've gotten to play.
"He's a real person as opposed to an arch. And it was nice
because you could rely on basic dialogue between people, not funny
costumes, and there wasn't so much pressure to be funny. The humour
is already there in the context of the story."
The film is due to open in the UK on January 7, 2005.