Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whatever Works (2009)


After the divorce from his wife, genius physicist, and cynical, self-absorbed, pessimistic, social recluse (yes that's a lot of negative) Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) decides to live on his own as a chess teacher. Hated by his students, he finds little to like in his life until one day the lovely southern Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood), a runaway, shows up at his door begging for food and a bed. While he can't stand her, one night turns into two, which turns into weeks. Soon Melodie finds herself falling for Boris, despite his cruel nature, and the two get married... but with a near 40 year age difference can it really last?

Being one of the few fans of Woody Allen in my house I have to sneak in a film of his whenever I'm at school because otherwise I'll be on my own to find one. Allen penned this script way back in the 70's hoping to make it with Zero Mostel, but he passed before it came to realization, and ultimately sat aside. With pending strikes Allen opted for this to be his 2009 foray into film, with the popular Larry David at the helm. As movie's go Whatever Works feels very Woody Allen, with Larry David basically playing the same asshole character he's made a career out of working. Of course that's not to say Allen doesn't warn the audience. The movie starts with David addressing the audience, despite his friends' argument that there's nobody there, and discussing his hatred of religion, politics, so on and so forth. But being sure to notify the audience he's not a likable guy.

This is something I found constantly present throughout the film. The characters each felt more like caricatures than living beings, and as such I found it difficult to really care for them. Many plot points seemed rather obvious, and a few jokes felt much like the script, dated. Yet for all that Allen has a sense of charm to his film's that no matter what they always leave me with a smile. A series of absurd events that tickle the viewer just enough to let the runtime glide by without any difficult moments, or boredom. This is a special talent that few directors ever master. Yet without such a solid cast of David, Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavil, and Ed Beagley Jr., Woody Allen really manages to milk as much out of each joke as possible.

The directing style is vintage Allen, you won't find better examples of his style. And David's Boris feels much like a more jerkish, but similarly neurotic, Allen type character. Though I suppose there's something to be said for the film's message. Not all relationships work out in the end, it's all about whatever works right now, and that we should cherish what relationships we get the chance to experience. Melodie's attempts at repeating Boris' physics ramblings give off quite a few laughs, and their relationship, while never explicitly shown, creates some good laughs from family/friends. Though few laughs ever transcend into anything really worth getting into a cheering spree for. Rather middle of the road stuff, never exceeding or underachieving, it just achieves what it wants.

A mediocre comedy with hits and misses across the board, Allen's Whatever Works is not anything special, but won't bore fans.

1 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Ha. I just posted my review. Fate. Ummm, I was waaaaaaaaay more accommodating of the film...kind of.

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