Review: Whatever Works
PLOT: In Woody Allen's latest, Larry David plays an obnoxious New York intellectual named Boris, who also happens to be a hypochondriac, and is a curmudgeon to boot. One day, he meets up with a young southern belle (Evan Rachel Wood), who's fled the home of her bible thumping parents (Patricia Clarkson & Ed Begley Jr.) for the freedom of New York. Sadly, things have not gone well for her, and she's living on the street, before being taken in by Boris, who promptly falls in love with her (kind of), and marries her. All is well, until her mother shows up...
REVIEW: I`m a big fan of Woody Allen. When he`s at his best (ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, MATCH POINT), he`s hard to beat, but the prolific Allen is also fairly uneven. While this doesn`t rank among his worst (ANYTHING ELSE, INTERIORS, etc) WHATEVER WORKS is still probably his weakest effort in years (yes- I was one of the few that liked CASSANDRA`S DREAM).
I think the big problem here is Larry David. While he`s terrific on CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, his persona is too firmly established to ever accept him as a Woody Allen cipher- which we`re forced to do here. At times, he seems really uncomfortable with the stylized Allen dialogue, and some of his line readings are really off. I think the film would have actually worked better if Allen himself had taken the lead (although he`s probably about ten years too old for the role).
For her part, Evan Rachel Wood is fine, if a bit over the top at times (the southern belle shtick gets old real fast). For me, the real scene-stealer's are Clarkson & Begley Jr. The film only really comes to life once Clarkson enters the fray, and her makeover from repressed, God fearing Southern housewife, to free spirited New York bohemian is funny, and oddly inspiring. As for Begley Jr., I have always though he was terribly under-rated, and he has a couple of great moments here- especially towards the end.
While I found it fairly ho-hum for an Allen flick, I'd still recommend checking it out if you're a fan of his- as it's got a couple of good moments, and for Clarkson, and Begley Jr. Otherwise, stay home and rent one of Allen's better films.