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WHATEVER WORKS, 2009
Movie Review

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WHATEVER WORKS, 2009
Movie Reviews

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Larry David, Evan Rachel Cooke, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr., Henry Cavill
Review by Matthew Toffolo



SYNOPSIS:

Woody Allen writes and directs this "blackish comedy" about an eccentric upper-class New Yorker (Larry David) who abandons his comfortable lifestyle in favor of leading a more bohemian existence. After meeting a young Southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and her family, he discovers that life among the nonconformists isn't quite as carefree as he'd envisioned it to be.

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REVIEW:

I used to have a roommate who talked like the main character Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) in Whatever Works. He used to talk and talk and talk about the world and how smart he was and how insane it all was. Boris and my roommate are what I like to call obvious talkers. They state what is logically obvious to anyone who truly thinks about what they are talking about. My roommate made me realize that the obvious is just plain obvious and it's the weakest form of conversation. And the amazing thing is that these people actually think they really are smart people. But if you are really smart, you're not talking about things but actually taking action about the things you're talking about.

I couldn't figure out whether Woody Allen's intention for the Boris character was for us to laugh with him or laugh at him. Are we supposed to think that this guy is actually smart and has something to say? OR, is he just a moron who is rationalizing his own pathetic existence? I guess some would argue that that's Woody's genius. He's a bit of both and so are his main characters.

Watching Larry David court (or her court him) a girl 40 years younger than him is a little creepy, but it's not nearly as creepy when Woody does it himself. Hopefully that ship has sailed forever. But why do these storylines keep coming up in his films?

This relationship between the senior citizen and the 20 year old girl is the heart of the film, and it's a little strange watching them mingle and be a couple. But I guess that the point of the film Whatever Works. That whatever works for people to make themselves happy and content in this world is what it's all about. If two people 40 years a part want to get married, whatever works. If a woman wants to cohabitate with two other guys and have a genuine Ménage à Trois relationship, whatever works. If a former right wing member of the NRA wants to go 'gay', whatever works. Nothing really matters unless you are happy with your life.

I get that. And it makes sense too. For some reason most of us find ourselves in our own tribes of convention. Certain things are just the way it is and it's what you are supposed to do. I was supposed to grow up, marry a girl, mortgage a house to live in, have some kids and live happily ever after. That's what my parents wanted me to do. And it's hard leaving your tribe of convention and it really shouldn't be. After all, does any of it really matter in the grand scheme of it all? Of course it doesn't.

This is a movie that is almost a great film. It has many scenes that are truly fabulous but as a whole I don't think it really works. But of course whatever works for you and never for others. This film can easily work for others because it does have a lot of funny and profound moments.

My only question is that if this is the premise of the film, why didn't they go crazy on the situations. Having a woman live with two guys is unconventional, but it isn't something any of us hasn't seen before. Why didn't Woody really give us whatever works situations with people who are happy but are living in situations many of us would find bizarre? Now that would be a film because it would be something that the audience would be forced to judge and wonder why they are judging it.

I guess I was just looking for a deeper film. Showing unconvention and comparing it with the conventional lifestyle. Who is happier? I bet the unconventional are.

Woody Allen just goes to his usual bag of tricks. Show us an evil republican and see them transform into a good liberal lefty who makes art. Show us an underachieving older man and see them become the creepy mentor to a much younger woman. Show us a fish out of water idealistic female and see them get even more confused and idealistic. Come on Woody, you're better than that. Give us something more.

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