Whatever Works

posted Aug 29, 2010, 12:31 AM by Jeff Brandt
Picture Larry David playing himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Pretty funny guy, right? Makes interesting observations about people, gets himself into trouble with friends and strangers alike for his bold statements and faux pas. A lot like George Costanza in Seinfeld (which was based on Mr. David).

Now picture him as an even bigger, more cynical asshole without any endearing qualities whatsoever who thinks he is the world's greatest genius, and you have Boris, the pigheaded protagonist in Woody Allen's 2009 film Whatever Works. Same gestures, facial expressions, and wardrobe as in Curb, but completely unlikeable.

Don't get me wrong about Woody Allen: I like his movies, generally. But over the course of a career, he's developed some tropes that have become annoying, and you wish he would expand his artistic boundaries a little. Such as the old, cantankerous, Jewish New York City native who, despite his unlikeable neurotic qualities, meets and falls in love with a much younger and less worldly woman. This time, Larry David plays that character in Allen's place, and it just doesn't work. He's too gruff and insulting, and you have to wonder how we're expected to believe he keeps friends, much less lovers.

The younger woman is Melody (Evan Rachel Wood), a typical country girl from Mississippi raised on fundamentalist morals. Having run away to New York without any money or place to stay, she approaches him outside his apartment to ask for something to eat . . . and ends up living with him for a month.

At first, he despises her naivete and not-so-subtly hints she should leave at every opportunity, but -- predictably -- ends up falling in love with her. Yada yada yada, they get married, she becomes more jaded like him, and then her backward parents show up a year later and start a whole new chain of conflict for Boris.

Without giving too much away, I'm just going to say that every twist and plot development seems unnatural and forced. There are some sorta-funny moments, and some refreshing updates to the stereotypes come toward the end. Still, I would rank it as the lamest Woody Allen movie I've seen, and the least funny project that Larry David has been attached to.

For a supposedly intelligent movie, there's such a simple, easily identified, and practically meaningless moral to the story -- and it's right there in the title. Just do whatever works for you; whatever makes you happy is AOK.

Great. Thanks a lot for that thought-provoking epiphany.


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