Director: Woody Allen
Writers: Woody Allen
Principal cast: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr.
Release date: June 2010 (on general release).
When the recently divorced, middle aged, neurotic, almost nominated Nobel physicist Boris Yelnikoff (David) finds naÃ¯ve small town girl Melodie (Wood) sleeping in his garbage, the cynical Boris reluctantly agrees to give her a roof over her head.
As several nights turn into months, friendship turns into love between the two mismatched individuals, emphasising Boris’s belief that whatever works should ultimately be embraced. However, a spanner is thrown into works with the arrival of Melodie’s conservative, evangelical, southern mother……
Woody Allen returns to a New York setting with an ensemble piece that is cynically very funny, sometimes touching but at times very predictable and feels almost like an Allen film by numbers.
David is very sharp as the cynical and aloft Boris (suffering from panic attacks, convinced he is dying and relegated to teaching urban kids chess after losing his income following a failed suicide attempt) with rants encompassing everything from the meaning of life, America’s fascination with summer camps to the contents of the local hot dogs. The humour is very caustic and funny and it’s hard to tell how much of the character is Allen and how much is an extension of David’s on-screen persona from the very sharp witted Curb Your Enthusiasm series.
Indeed, the character almost comes across as a New York Scrooge, constantly offending and alienating those he comes into contact with and ultimately in need of a redemptive turning point in his life.
In this instance, redemption comes from the small town Melodie played wonderfully by Wood as a modern, dim witted, wide eyed youngster out of her depth in the Big Apple and taking as fact everything told to her by the ranting Boris.
There is actually a charm to the banter between the two and one is left with the weary realisation that this may be a stop gap for both parties as Melodie’s eyes widen to the world around her.
Less successful is the second half of the film as the assembled list of supporting characters follow predictable (almost telegraphed) development as they interact with each other.
Patricia Clarkson gives fine support as Melodie’s mother, but the character is too predictable and the change from divorced conservative small town lady to bohemian, sexually free artist has been covered so many times in previous Allen comedies and is followed by the development of Melodie’s father (Begley) which is a virtual repeat performance.
Further, some may find the tying up of developments into a happy ending too naÃ¯ve, whilst others may tire of Boris’s overtly sarcastic observations on life.
Ultimately, Whatever Works delivers nothing new with predictable character development but is saved by moments of almost pure sadistic humour from David.
A likeable but very predictable comedy that almost feels like a TV movie, Whatever Works has two great leads, moments of genuinely funny rants but offers nothing new for the Allen fan.