Conversational Therapy: Melvin Goes To Dinner
(originally posted on Chlotrudis Award discussion group)

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 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 fleshed-out 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 cliché 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 get a chance; it's tentatively scheduled to come out on DVD in December.