ShoWest: First Reaction to Woody Allen's Whatever Works
by Alex Billington
April 2, 2009
While Woody Allen's latest film, Whatever Works, isn't due out in theaters until June 19th, I'm anxious to put up my reaction, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and have a lot to say. Sony Pictures Classics showed Whatever Works at ShoWest in Las Vegas today, and while I can't write a full review yet, I can tell you about it. If you haven't already heard, the film stars Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood, and is about an odd relationship the two build after a chance meeting. It's Allen's 42nd film and not exactly a big departure from his past work. It is his standard New York talky, but actually one of his best films in recent years.
"Seinfeld" writer and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David plays a bumbling eccentric old man named Boris, a self-described genius who claims to have once been considered for a Nobel prize, but thinks everyone is a "mindless zombie," "cretin," and/or "inchworm." His character is truly what makes this so damn good, and I'll argue that he's one of the best characters that Allen has written (and cast) in the last few years. Take a look at some of the photos and you'll get an idea, but just wait until you hear the dialogue. While the humor isn't gut-busting funny, it does provide some solid laughs and never gets old.
The story is fairly simple, and follows Boris and Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood), how they met and their relationship onwards. Boris doesn't have many friends, and doesn't like her at first, but slowly starts to warm up to her southern charm. Eventually, Melodie's mom shows up (Patricia Clarkson), and then her father, and things start to really get out of hand. It's one of those comedies where everything starts to spin wildly out of control and eventually everyone is all in one scene all together. That isn't much of a spoiler, so you don't need to worry, but part of the fun is just watching everything progress to the end.
Out of some of Allen's most recent films, including Vicky Cristina Barcelona, this has been my favorite, for reasons I can't really describe. Maybe it was just a pure fascination with Larry David's character, who is one of those kind of guys that you feel bad for, even though he is kind of an asshole, or at least overly rude and racist, most of the time. I also just enjoyed how self-aware the film was, with David talking to the audience multiple times, and the way it's a retrospective piece on life in this world and dysfunctional relationships, not a deep analysis on how perfect love can be (or how completely un-perfect it can be, sometimes).
Even if you're not the biggest Woody Allen fan (or even if you are), Whatever Works is definitely worth seeing, whenever it comes to theaters. Writing a character for and casting Larry David was one of the best choices Allen has made in recent years. And with the right amount of positive buzz, this might end up becoming a bigger hit than his last few films. I will certainly say that it deserves to be one!