Whatever Works

Posted by schnolis on July 2nd, 2009 filed in Reviews

WHATEVER_WORKSWhatever Works is the story of a writer-director who pumps out three or four movies a year that always seem to have an attractive 18-year old woman who’s somehow attracted to the neurotic megalomaniacal septuagenarian who uncannily resembles the writer-director. Or maybe I’m mixing the plot of the movie with real life? I’m really not sure. After seeing Whatever Works tonight I’m not sure that I’m as big a fan of Woody Allen anymore. Either this film just wasn’t up to par or seeing too many of Allen’s films in too short of a span of time just makes you feel a little creepy and voyeuristic.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is a temperamental chess-tutor and self-proclaimed genius whose life we follow over the several year span of this farce. While returning to his apartment he is startled by a young runaway girl who is looking for something to eat. Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood ) pleads with him to take her in, which he does, despite going completely against his curmudgeonly nature. After she stays with him for a while, she starts to have feelings for him, and they ultimately get married, despite the 40-odd year difference in ages. This goes fine until her mother Marietta (Patricia Clarkson) locates her. She pleads with Melodie to come home to Mississippi, but Melodie would rather stay. Instead, Marietta is consumed by the freedom to pursue her interests in the big city, and gives up her convictions and moves in with two men. Until, of course, Marietta’s husband John (Ed Begley Jr.) arrives to reclaim her and Melodie. Boris endures all of this as you would expect (badly) but is moved to desperation one day when Marietta tells him she’s found someone else and is leaving Boris. For the second time in his life he jumps out a window in an attempt to kill himself, only to survive by falling on a passing stranger.

On it’s own there’s nothing terribly interesting about the story. It’s preposterous, true, but it’s meant to be silly. It’s just a vehicle for some of the ideological positions that Boris offers up. His philosophy of life is that there is nothing important, no underlying meaning or mystery, and that you should take any opportunity to enjoy whatever life gives you, because it’s not nearly as much in your control as you could possibly believe. So by doing Whatever Works you at least have some chance at being happy while you’re here. Because you’re certainly not going anywhere else once you’re gone.

What I liked: The philosophical nature of the concepts in the film. I enjoyed the contemplation of the bigger picture, and find myself largely in agreement with the ideas espoused by Boris, though not the the same degree. I found the transformations of the characters from a right-wing stereotype into a left-wing stereotype to be hilarious and irreverent. The witty exposure of the roles we play in our lives was clever, especially with how silly the whole process seemed at the time.

What I disliked: I’m a bit tired of sixty-somethings being love interests of twenty-somethings. It’s too creepy for me. I realize it’s a farce, but it’s wasn’t necessary to the rest of the film. And it took away from it. I didn’t like Larry David in the movie, and while I think that was largely the script and the film and not his performance, I’m not sure he’s free from all rebuke. The movie and most of the performances were just average.

Rating: 5 of 10

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