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USA 2009
Directed by
Woody Allen
88 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Whatever Works

Woody Allen is well-known, and often derided, both on screen and off, for hooking himself up with ridiculously younger women.  Whatever Works is the most extreme example of this peculiar folly. Realizing that even in his screen fantasies he is too old for the part, Allen gets Larry David to play his alter ego, Boris Yellnikoff, a lanky curmudgeon who proves to be inexplicably appealing to a sexy young runaway, Melody (Evan Rachel Wood).

Allen’s scripts tend to be illustrations of a particular moral lesson but at their best are enlivened with  amusing characterisations and wry bon mots. Whatever Works, which was apparently based on an old script originally written for Zero Mostel, doesn’t bring this off.
Boris is very much Allen’s anhedonic pessimistic screen persona (Allen makes him a nuclear physicist who nearly won a Nobel prize) but he is also a particularly misanthropically sarcastic version of it.

David, whose crotchety humour appeals in the short-term format of his TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm wears thin with his endless moaning about the futility of everything and sour observations on people, his relationship with his air-headed sexpot wife never remotely credible (unlike the Isaac-Tracy relationship of Manhattan, and even 30 years ago that was stretching a point). Thankfully, there are a couple of amusing parts for Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr as Melody’s parents but this is not enough to make the film any more than a disposable entry in Allen’s over-stocked catalogue.

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