This new Woody Allen
film was originally written by him in 1977 and it really feels that way. While it’s not as good as either of the two films, it certainly feels like it would have comfortably nestled between “Manhattan”
and “Annie Hall”
partially because of the return of the old Allen
device of a main character who has completely abandoned the fourth wall between himself and the audience. Larry David
, the ideal Allen
stand-in, just as easily could be Alvy Singer
and indeed feels like a brother to him, both men incapable of experiencing any pleasure from the pleasurable things in life, both more comfortable spending his time complaining of being a smart man in a stupid world. I’d make a crack here about identifying with him on that last part, except David
’s character, Boris Yelnikoff
, is such an unbelievable misanthrope, I wouldn’t want the easily confused to mis-understand what I was saying.
is an ex-Quantum Physicist who now makes his living in NYC teaching kids how to play chess while verbally berating them and everyone else he runs into for being a mental midget. His marriage ended when he woke up in the middle of the night with an existential crisis and tried to commit suicide by window jumping instead of having to stay with his wife. Years later Boris
runs into Melodie
(Evan Rachel Wood
) a sweet and simple, to the point of stereotype, southern girl who is living in the alley by his house and begs him for food. He lets her in, and even ends up letting her stay with him and much to his, and all of his friends’ surprise, despite his constant belittling of her, she falls in love with him and they end up married. All is functional, if not certainly doomed, when Melodie
’s conservative Christian mom Marietta
) shows up on Boris
’s doorstep looking for her, just having been dumped by her husband for her best friend. As you might imagine, Boris
don’t get on and soon, despite Marietta
being drastically changed by the city just like her daughter was, she’s meddling and trying to find Melodie
someone more chronologically suited to her.
I wasn’t surprised, with the casting of the always funny and brilliant Larry David
, to find this was one of the funniest Allen
films in recent memory. Ever since “Match Point”
’s strength has lay in the dramatic but it was a pleasure to see the old Allen
reemerge, even if it can only be for this one movie written so long ago by a very different man.
What else “Whatever Works”
is, it’s an extreme liberal atheist fairytale. Which is to say, I adored it. While I can see why some of the critics would have dismissed it entirely for some of its adherence to cliche or its easy solutions, I found the story to be a charming fable about how teaching an old scrooge that just maybe that life, while it’s certainly not perfect, is a gift to be enjoyed and that no matter how much you think, and plan, and prepare, that most of it ultimately comes down to luck.
Surprising even to myself, I felt emotionally moved by the time the film reaches its holiday ending and despite quite a few claims by other writers to the contrary, personally have to enthusiastically give “Whatever Works”
. It’s like watching the old Woody
again, complete with great performances, a May-December romance, and a self-aware (but of course, completely self-deluded) main character. If you’re having a Christmas Day get together with your smart, leftist, and perhaps even a bit nihilist friends, “Whatever Works”
might be just the ticket to inject some of that holiday cheer in those who don’t normally subscribe to such mirth making. As Boris
says in the film, “...whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works.”
Click Here to Buy Whatever Works [Blu-ray]