Whatever Works (2009)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA/France, 2009.  , Wild Bunch, Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions.  Screenplay by Woody Allen.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Southern Christian conservatism meets New York Jewish cynicism in this sweet, winsome comedy by Woody Allen. Hypochondriac misanthrope Larry David, in a role that Allen usually reserves for himself but has cast perfectly all the same, is surprised one night by the appearance of a teenage runaway (Evan Rachel Wood) in the garbage heap outside his fire escape. He takes her in and scrubs her up, teaches her about his philosophy of life (which is basically that everyone is worthless and life is pointless) and, once he realizes that she’s learned something from him, marries her. In comes her bourbon-soaked mother (Patricia Clarkson) to stir up the pot before love and art find her in the Big Apple and turn her from a Bible-thumping Christian into a menage a trois-living photographer. Allen gets almost everything right with this piece, scripting some wonderful (if familiar) comedic dialogue and casting the entire thing beautifully: Wood has never been so lovely, her performance up there with Mariel Hemingway’s casual brilliance in Manhattan, while Clarkson steals the entire show with her booze-fire accent and plucky energy. The only thing lacking, and admittedly it’s not a small thing, is a sense of direction: Allen does a beautiful job of depicting these characters expressing themselves in natural settings, something he’s always been good at, but where it’s all going is difficult to determine. It does, however, represent the great artist getting back in touch with the bittersweet curmudgeon who brought us Hannah And Her Sisters, a philosopher who keeps facing the downsides of life on a daily basis but, in the end, believes that whatever works is what makes it all worthwhile.


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