Woody Allen has long made both dramas and comedies, and even some hybrids of the two. This film though, is perhap the first time where he really blended them in a unique or interesting way. The movie is a frame story sort of deal concerning a group of friends (two of which are playwrights) at a restaurant discussing which is the more true to life type of story: a comedy or tragedy? To make their respective points, they tell one love story about the same woman, two different ways, comedically and tragically, with each story having some of the same types of details) the initial setups, plot points, and just some small stuff like preference for certain things, etc).
This is a really fun premise, and it's done pretty well. To really make things lively, the two stories are told intertwiningly, instead of one after the other, as a result, the movie as a whole is a giant ball of comedy and drama, but I'm not gonna say how it all ends, since that would spoil the fun. I'll just go ahead and say though, that the film does conclude in maybe the most appropriate way possible. Heck, you might even be able to figure it out just by the premise alone.
I won't say which of the stories about Melinda is the better one, or the preferred one, since I just can't do it. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, offer up some universal truths, and have some good stuff going on. No, the film isn't perfect, and it does move kinda slow, and a lot of this is just more of Allen being Allen instead of truly branching out and doing something groundbreaking. However, even when he rehashes, it's a joy because he's just a great kind of artist whom you don't mind listening to every time he talks, even if he's repeating the same stuff over and over.
The cast is populated with lots of names, from Radha Mitchell playing both sides of Melinda, Will Ferrell as the Allen surrogate, Wallace Shawn as one of the storytellers, and Chiwetel Ejiofor playing the only real character who actually seems fleshed out instead of just being a caricature or sketch of a real person.
The performances are pretty good though, even if Ferrell doesn't quite make the role his own and Sevigny and Peet try hard but still sorta seem to struggle. Ejiofor and Mitchell are the best (hands down), but like I said, even though not everyone is great, no one really sucks here.
I kinda wished for something that didn't seem to be very plodding or rather directionless at times, but I won't that this was boring or a waste of time. It's not completely satisfying, but it works pretty well as a side dish as opposed to a full meal, ie: watch it along with some other stuff instead of making it the highlight of a movie night.