Friday, August 11, 2006

It's Typical Allen

Life, any true life, is full of ups and downs, tears and laughters. It is, as one man said, both a tragedy and a comedy. Such is the nature of Woody Allen's 2004 film "Melinda and Melinda". Only Allen has an interesting take on this truth about reality. It's not simply that life is full of sorrow and joy, but rather that life can be either a comedy or a tragedy, it just depends on how you look at it. To convey this message in "Melinda and Melinda" Allen portrays the same woman's story in two separate genres; once as a tragedy and once as a comedy.

The film opens with a group of friends sitting in a New York City restaurant. Two of the friends are playwrights, one does comedy, the other tragedy, and when given the bare details about Melinda's life they construct a story each in his own genre. The film is a rather unique idea, to cast really two films in one (whether or not Allen achieves this successfully is up for debate, but he attempts it). There are some moments of reall craftsmanship on the directors part, some good acting, and some very funny scenes. In many ways it is a film typical of Allen's style. Like his last 40 or so films he has attempted to portray this same idea about life. His final conclusion, however, leaves much to be desired: life is meaningless and it's all about the living.

At least three different characters exclaim that life is meaningless, and the film concludes with Shawn Wallace's character exclaiming that not only is life meaningless but all that matters is enjoying every moment. It is the typical "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die" attitude. It is a film that reflects a whole worldview all around us, and as Christians we need to be able to interact with this worldview and explain why it is wrong.

While I certainly don't applaud Allen's views, or his use of language, sexuality, and generally light humour about serious issues, I can be thankful that he has reminded me of what many people think life is like. Movies can be a good help to both apologetics and evangelism (see my article "Theology at the Movies"), and to that end I am value Allen's films. But this does not negate the problems of the film, nor make it worth watching, in many ways it is simply typical Allen.


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