Melvin Goes to Dinner (USA; 83 min.)


directed by: Bob Odenkirk
starring: Michael Blieden; Stephanie Courtney; Matt Price
Melvin Goes to Dinner
 
Chris says: "I'm so glad I managed to see this film before it left the Coolidge yesterday; MELVIN GOES TO DINNER is a smart, entertaining low budget indie about four thirtysomethings who unexpectedly meet up for dinner. Their conversations are the gist of the film, which will remind a lot of people of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE; however, unlike that seminal talkfest, this one jumps around in time and has an ingenuous twist that appears in the final third that made me want to go back and watch a few earlier scenes again.

The script, written by Michael Bliedorn, who also plays the title character, started off as a play. While you can easily imagine this being performed on stage, the editing (also by Bliedorn) is pretty sharp and adds dimensions to these four figures. It was directed by Bob Odenkirk (of 'Mr. Show'), and he gets decent performances and good comic timing out of all the leads, with Annabelle Gurwitch standing out as Sarah, the most subdued, mysterious, and intricate of the four.

Jack Black, David Cross, and Maura Tierney also contribute some nice cameos (Black is nearly as hilarious as he was in HIGH FIDELITY), but it's the dinner conversations that intrigue, especially as each character shares more secrets with the group. For the most part, the dialogue avoids cliche and manages to be believable. There's a subplot between Melvin and another woman that ends the film on a somewhat unnecessarily melodramatic note. But, I have to admit I felt nearly as transformed as Melvin, Sarah, Joey (Matt Price), and Alex (Stephanie Courtney) did when they left the restaurant and went on their separate ways. Catch this one if you ever get a chance; it's tentatively scheduled to come out on DVD in December."
 
Esmé says: "Not bad for a movie about the drunken shit-shooting of a bunch of California, post college yuppie kids. (Four friends meet for dinner and discuss the meaning of life)
 
Michael says: "MELVIN GOES TO DINNER tells the story of 4 people with tenous connections, coming together for an impromptu dinner. Melvin is involved in a troubling relationship with a woman played by Melora Walters (MAGNOLIA). Despite his desire to cancel, he joins his friend Joey for dinner, and they, in turn, are joined by Alex, Joey's friend from business school, and Sarah, a friend that Alex bumps into on the street just before dinner. This combination of friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers engage in conversation that bounces from ghosts, religion, sex, and infidelity as their realtionships change and secrets are slowly revealed. Maura Tierney, so fun in Scotland, PA, appears as Melvin's sister.

"Director Bob Odenkirk has done some television writing, and acting in films. MELVIN GOES TO DINNER is his feature film directorial debut, and he does a good job blending various levels of flashback, a mutating timeline, and an admittedly low-budget, but naturalistic look to make what is largely a conversation between four people fascinating. Michael Blieden (who also stars as Melvin) adapted the screenplay from his play, and it is the writing that is the strong point of this film. Blieden keeps things interesting with his witty dialogue, insightful revelations, and thoughtful story, that is revealed slowly. Look for a possible Screenplay nod from me." 4 cats
 
Tara says: "I tried to watch MELVIN GOES TO DINNER (also played our film festival last fall). I found it trite and annoying - all the religion talk, the philsophizing - the reviews said it was like 'intimate converstaion between friends' - I have been known to do my share of philosophizing and theologizing - but when I see it on film I feel dirty and ashamed of my antics.

"It has a heavey-handedness to it: Look at me, I'm an intellectual! As though it must be spelled out for us...otherwise the viewer could not think these were smart interesting people?

"I don't know, I just didn't get it. I loved the David Cross and Jack Black cameos and a friend said to stick with it, it starts slow. But once I hit 38 minutes out of an 83 minute movie, it seemed hopeless that it could get any better, and if it did get better, what good is half of a good film, especially the second half? And will the pay off be as good as waiting for the scond half of TITANIC (the ship's slow destruction is what makes that movie watchable IMHO)?"