Over a meal in a French restaurant, Sy poses a conundrum to his fellow diners: Is the essence of life comic or tragic? For the sake of argument, he tells a story, which the others then embellish to illustrate their takes on life. The story starts as follows: A young Manhattan couple, Park Avenue princess Laurel and tippling actor Lee, throw a dinner party to impress Lee's would-be producer when their long-lost friend Melinda appears at their front door, bedraggled and woebegone. In the tragic version of what happens next, the beautiful intruder is a disturbed woman who got bored with her Midwestern doctor-husband and dumped him for a photographer. Her husband took the children away and she spiraled into a suicidal depression that landed her straight-jacketed in a mental ward. In the comic version, Melinda is childless and a downstairs neighbor to the dinner hosts, who are ambitious Indy filmmaker Susan and under-employed actor Hobie. Back and forth the stories go, contrasting the ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This film probably marks the crucial point where Woody Allen takes one step back and lets others take over the Woody persona of a typical Allen film. It's happened before, in Celebrity and Anything Else, but now the lead characters can breathe as themselves without having to essentially 'be Woody'. Sure the resemblances are still there but more in the situations than in the characters. Will Ferrell displays proper comic timing and Jonny Lee Miller tries valiantly with what he's given. The script sparkles with more one-liners than most recent efforts and an appropriate return of the 'lust for life' motif seen in earlier films such as Hannah and Her Sisters or Everyone Says I Love You. If you don't appreciate that comic situations are both sad and full of life, and that tragedy has a fair share of unexpected delights as well as heartache, than you're definitely missing the point. Woody displays both of these in equal quantity spread liberally throughout the film in all situations. And so what if the end plays more like a series of sketches than a full-on film? It's the mark of a master than can make us enjoy what we see regardless of narrative form. 8 out of 10.
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