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Melvin's life hasn't
been going so well. Since dropping out of med school, he's been floating
through his life. He spends his days working a go-nowhere position that he only managed to get thanks to his sister,
who's now his boss. When he's not at work, he's sneaking around with a
woman he really shouldn't be seeing at all. One day, his old friend Joey
accidentally dials him up (he was trying to call someone else and hit
the wrong number on speed dial). Joey invites him to meet up for dinner
that evening, and Melvin says sure. By the end of the day, though, he's
realized that he's not in the mood for socializing after all. Though he
nearly bails on Joey to spend a quiet evening with his sister instead, a
fight between the siblings leaves Melvin resorting to the original plan.
He shows up at the restaurant, and discovers Joey deep in conversation
at a dinner table with two women that Melvin doesn't know. Joey
introduces Alex, a friend of his from business school, and Sarah, a
friend of Alex's. Soon, the four strangers find themselves deep in
conversation, as the wine flows, and talk shifts from how they know each
other into ghosts, religion, porn, sex, adultery and relationships.
Watching a movie in which 90% of the "action" takes place
around a dinner table may not sound like the most exciting thing in the
world. And when my quick look at the back of the box revealed that the
movie was based on a play by the same writer, I have to admit, I was
skeptical. Having seen one two many movies-based-on-plays that
essentially looked like someone turned a video camera on a stage
production, I've found that often, what works in the theatre environment
doesn't always translate so well to film. Still, I'm a sucker for talky
clever flicks about the life and times of angsty quasi-adults, which is
why the boy and I ended up picking this DVD off the shelf at our local
video store, despite the fact that we had never heard of it. Melvin Goes
to Dinner turned out to be a pleasant surprise. A movie centered around
four folks sitting around a table only works if the dialogue is good,
and the rapport between the four characters feels totally natural.
Director Odenkirk and writer Blieden, along with the fine cast, do a
great job of making you feel like you're eavesdropping on a real
conversation amongst real (albeit, highly articulate) people. Listening
to Melvin, Joey, Alex and Sarah talk (and talk and talk) reminded me of
some of my favorite late-night conversations with my favorite smart
people -- where earnest debate about the big weighty issues of Love,
Death, and Religion mingled with revelations about our own little lives.
Anyone who has ever had one of these talkfests in real life knows that
occasional degeneration into pseudo-deep philosophical posturing is
almost unavoidable, but for the most part the movie's fine sense of
humor saves it from getting too precious. Very funny and oddly sweet as
well, Melvin Goes to Dinner just may provide the best dinner
conversation you'll enjoy all year. —reviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
lounge . nourish
. host .
. home .