2005_03_movies_melindaWoody Allen's fictional vision of New York has become so highly developed and self-referential over the years that for Gothamist, who has seen nearly every film Allen has made, most scenes in his newer features evoke similar scenes from previous works. Characters almost always fall into stereotypes of different kinds of New Yorkers, and the city they live in exists largely in the same recurring locations, even as Allen tries to throw in seemingly-new touches and visits heretofore undepicted neighborhoods.

Melinda and Melinda may be set in the present, but the film doesn't really feel like it takes place in modern New York, but rather in the well-established, over-romantic, intellectualized idea of New York in Allen's mind. It's not a depiction of the city's reality in any sense; there is no hint of 9/11 or the outer boroughs. Certainly, there are shots of tree-lined blocks, scenes at Pastis, and sequences with characters walking on Madison Avenue and in Central Park, but in Allen's later movies the backdrop of the city is more a tool than an end in itself.

Among Allen's films from the past decade, there are few standouts; he hasn't set very difficult challenges for himself, and his plots nearly always seem rehashed. Melinda and Melinda is no exception to this; certainly it achieves as much as Manhattan Murder Mystery, Mighty Aphrodite, and Deconstructing Harry, but doesn't come anywhere near his earlier work. But there is still something pleasant about listening in on swank Upper East Side dinner parties where people debate Stravinsky, and recognizing the same characters who "used to be those girls wearing plaid skirts." And Will Ferrell's depiction of the neurotic Allen foil character is dead-on.