Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5. USA, 2004. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Gravier Productions, LF Hungary Film Rights Exploitation. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Produced by Letty Aronson. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Judy L. Ruskin. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter.
Two writers argue about the importance of comedy and tragedy, challenging each other to take the same situation (a woman crashes a dinner party) and take it in the direction of the genre they’ve chosen. In the drama, Melinda (Radha Mitchell) interrupts a dinner party of her school friends (Chloe Sevigny, Brooke Smith) and asks to stay for a while. She has lost custody of her children after a bitter divorce and needs the comfort of her friends, much to the chagrin of Sevigny’s struggling-actor husband (Jonny Lee Miller). In the comedy, Melinda (Mitchell again) is a mysterious woman who wanders into the dinner party of a neighbour (Amanda Peet) in her building. This time she announces that she has tried to kill herself with sleeping pills after having been dumped by her husband, becoming friends with them and sweetening up to Peet’s struggling-actor husband (Will Ferrell). Writer-director Woody Allen keeps good control of each storyline, seeing them both through to their finish, but there’s very little distinction in tone between the two: the comedy produces very few laughs and the drama isn’t particularly engaging. What you really get are two average films in his seriocomic vein mashed together in one, neither of them nearly as memorable as some of his best work. Mitchell follows his lead well but has never been more than charmingly flat, while Sevigny stands out in the dramatic section as her Park Avenue Princess friend.