I’ve passed on many of the last few Woody Allen films simply for not having any interest what-so-ever. Whatever Works offers a traditional Allen film with the Larry David spin. Throughout this film you are trying to decide if you are watching a Woody Allen film starring Larry David, or if you are watching Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David playing Woody Allen. Regardless, the match up is great. The anger often associated with David’s HBO show and the stand up commentary of Allen merge well in this film.
David accurately lands jokes and Allen masterfully directs. This pair is perfect. Much like other Allen films, the male protagonist is neurotic, worried, stressed, eccentric, etc. David plays Boris Yelnikoff who is retired and divorced his wife and unsuccessfully committed suicide by throwing himself out his window a few years earlier, eventually safely landing on an overhang. He befriends Melodie, a 21-year-old woman played (Evan Rachel Wood). He reluctantly invites her to stay with him, which she seems to be unabashed by his behavior, eventually seducing him and later getting married.
Melodie’s mother, Marietta, finds Melodie after she leaves her father for being unfaithful. She learns of her marriage to Boris and is upset by the shock of her daughters decision and the culture shock of New York. Over time Marietta begins to live as a ménage à trois and becomes well renown as a photographer. Marietta also pushes Randy, a man who matches Melodie’s age. Over time Melodie does begin to fall for Randy and leaves Boris, although the two remain friends. What keeps the random series of events is
David’s adequate narration. Voice-overs and breaking the forth wall, all signatures of Allen’s style. Quips are abundant and often break the tension on the screen between other characters. It replicates Allen’s style well. Toward the end of the film Boris finds himself alone while Melodie finds another man, Marietta stays in a ménage à trois, and her ex-husband John (Ed Begley Jr.) finds himself experimenting with homosexuality. Through all this change, which at first doesn’t seem to really bother Boris, he again throws himself out the window, landing on a passer-by.
Whatever Works deserves a rightful place among many of Allen’s other works, and returns him to his previous efforts such as Anything Else, Manhattan and Annie Hall. Allen’s style in directing, comedy, characters and even jokes continues. Essentially, Whatever Works is great for the Allen fan, a pain for the hater. Allen has the unique gift of presenting of returning to similar characters, plots and premises. The same film formula over and over again with subtle differences that make them worth watching.