Directed by: Woody Allen
Premise: An abrasive older man (Larry David) takes in a young runaway (Evan Rachel Wood) and she begins to adopt his nihilistic and cynical view of life. When her parents track her down, the older man’s dedication to his cynicism is challenged.
What Works: Whatever Works combines the speed and narcissism characteristic of Woody Allen’s comedy with Larry David’s awkward and coarse stage persona and the result is a nearly perfect marriage of writing and performance. Nearly every scene in the film has at least one great line of dialogue and Whatever Works effectively stacks laughs upon one another so that the film swings from laugh to laugh. Aside from David, the film also features a strong performance by Evan Rachel Wood. In this film, Wood takes a step away from her usual sultry or precocious roles and takes on a dim, vacillating dreamer and she impresses in her performance as an optimistic counterpoint to David’s role.
What Doesn’t: Whatever Works is a film that might have been better as a play, since it isn’t very cinematic and is carried largely by dialogue. The characters talk (and talk and talk) about issues like love and the meaning of life but there isn’t very much done visually with these themes. Those familiar with Larry David’s television show Curb Your Enthusiasm will recognize a lot of the style and tone and Whatever Works plays much like an elongated episode of the show.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Although Whatever Works falls short of Woody Allen’s best work, the performances and acerbic dialogue make it well worth checking out.
Episode: #274 (January 24, 2010)