Whatever Works (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/06/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

Enjoyable, well written and frequently amusing Woody Allen comedy that doesn't exactly break any new ground but should at least bring in the Larry David fans.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Whatever Works stars Larry David as misanthropic genius Boris, who's given to narrating his life to an unseen audience (i.e. to camera) and whose philosophy is “If it helps you get through life: whatever works”. Boris finds both his philosophy and his misanthropy tested to their limits when he meets naïve young homeless woman Melody (Evan Rachel Wood) and ends up taking her under his wing whilst complaining about it vociferously to anyone who'll listen.

However, when he realises that Melody is not only actively listening to what he's saying but also beginning to repeat his opinions and phrases (i.e. referring to people with lesser intellects as “inchworms”), Boris finds himself unexpectedly falling for her and ends up proposing. Things then get complicated with the arrival of Melody's ageing Southern belle mother (Patricia Clarkson), closely followed by her fuddy-duddy father (Ed Begley Jr), both of whom take to New York life in unexpected ways. But, hey, whatever works.

The Good
Larry David is terrific in what is essentially the Woody Allen substitute role, only his character is closer to David's own brand of outspoken misanthropy than to Allen's nervy screen persona, so it works well. He also has surprising chemistry with Evan Rachel Wood, who's equally superb as Melody – the scenes where you realise she's unconsciously mirroring Boris are extremely well done.

As you'd expect from a Woody Allen film, the support cast are wonderful. Patricia Clarkson nearly walks off with the entire film as Melody's religious mother Marietta and Ed Begley Jr is very funny as her father. Similarly, the dialogue crackles with witty lines and there are several good gags.

The Bad
That said, the film's not quite without flaws. Henry Cavill is rather mannered and unconvincing (not to say underwritten) as a British wannabe actor who pursues Melody, while the to-camera narration doesn't really work and practically begs the audience to shout out snide comments by making assumptions about their numbers that probably won't be borne out in reality.

Worth seeing?
Whatever Works is an enjoyable, well acted and frequently amusing Woody Allen comedy that doesn't quite hit the heights of Vicky Cristina Barcelona but is definitely worth seeing.

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Whatever Works (M)
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Content updated: 18/10/2019 06:28

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