Monday, November 30, 2009

Under 250: Whatever Works

The script for Woody Allen's latest comedy, Whatever Works was originally written in the early 70's as a vehicle for Zero Mostel. It never happened, and was shelved for a good three decades. Thankfully, though, Allen dug it back out, dusted it off, and roped Larry David into doing what he does best: playing a neurotic misanthrope meandering through life with a wince and an insult. David plays Boris Yellnikov, a supposed genius who takes in a very young, stray, Southern-fried ditz named Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) and slowly finds himself falling for her unpretentious charms. When Melodie's religiously fanatic and sexually repressed mother (Patricia Clarkson) arrives on the scene, things begin to twist away from Melodie and Boris's odd relationship. The movie is nothing new, and is admittedly a little stagey and contrived, it's hard not to expect what comes next or to feel that everyone but Boris isn't moving around like a pawn through a set of lines. But, it feels like vintage Allen, before the nostalgic 80's and apart from the London series, and that reason alone is enough for me to have enjoyed it. It follows its own philosophy, breezily moving through time and plot with Allen's oddly upbeat, charming pessimism. David's rants on humanity are solid, his outlook almost consistently hilarious, and Wood delivers a convingingly bubble-headed performance (that looks genius following her dreadful guest spot on True Blood). Brief and a little predictable, Whatever Works turns into something that's overall satisfying, and generally worth checking out.

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