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LAist watches: Melinda and Melinda

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Woody Allen is decidedly New York (not a bad thing, we love New York, obviously) His movies are a love affair with the city and vibrate with its rythms. During his long career, he has given us some great films. Sadly, his recent efforts have left us wondering if, perhaps, one of the masters has lost his way.That can be put to rest now that we have seen his latest film, Melinda and Melinda. We admit, we went into the film with some reservations after Anything Else and Hollywood Ending. But it turns out, there was nothing to worry about at all. The film works.

The story is a bit complex and follows two parallel tales, one comic and one dramatic, about a girl named Melinda and a man trying to woo her. Melinda is played by one of our favorite under-appreciated actresses, the beautiful Radha Mitchell. We have liked her sinse seeing her in Lisa Cholodenko's film High Art. Now, she seems grown into her looks and talent and really shines here. It's hard to believe that this is the same woman who played "the wife" in Tony Scott's Man on Fire.

Almost more impressive is Wil Ferrell as Hobie. We love Wil Ferrell of Saturday Night Live and Old School fame. But, this is the new Wil Ferrell. A mature comic talent whose time has come. Ferrell takes up the "Woody Allen" part and attacks it with gusto. The idea must have occured to Allen that at his age, it's a little hard to believe his romancing of much younger women and mingling with the thirty-somethings of today's New York. So, he steps aside.

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He has tried replaing himself in his movies to some success before with John Cusak in Bullets Over Broadway and to dismal results with Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity. In Wil Farrell, Allen has found an actor who can not only mimic him, but goes beyond the stammering and pent-up sexual feelings of the typical Woody Allen hero and brings his own twists. His is an inspired choice.

The film is helped emmensely by Cinamatographer Vilmos Zigmond and the music of Duke Ellington and Stravinsky. But, its the cast and the sure Direction and often outrageously funny Writing of Woody Allen that makes the film sing. It's good to see that one of the masters still has a story to tell. When he's on, he's hard to beat.