Has Woody Allen finally realized that he's too old to be flirting with 20-year olds? Perhaps not, but in Allen's latest comedy, the famed director is up to his old tricks - but this time he uses none other than Larry David in his place.
David is, in reality, the perfect successor to Allen. Known for abrupt, logic-defining humor (not to mention that he's not all that good looking), David has made a name for himself as an actor on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which in turn is a play on "Seinfeld," where he plays an annoying jackass who questions everything, bucking social standards that get in the way. Allen and David's styles aren't exactly the same, but they're close enough, and in Whatever Works, Allen adjusts his writing to David's strengths. Unfortunately, the result a mildly entertaining but ultimately lackluster comedy.
In Whatever Works, David plays Boris Yellnikoff, a New Yorker who is perfectly content being nice to no one. But when a homeless girl named Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) talks her way into sleeping on his couch, he reluctantly finds himself a friend. Despite their age difference, which he repeatedly points out, the two end up getting married. But when Melodie's mother (Patricia Clarkson) shows up, the woman sets out to hook Melodie up with a younger man.
As with many of Allen's other comedies, Whatever Works takes place in an alternate universe where emotions are inconsequential and actions can be talked away with little negative impact. The elements of this universe make it possible for the story to work; after all, in real life, no one would put up with David's incessant badgering, let alone marry him (especially if you look like Evan Rachel Wood). Some funny moments do emerge from Allen's ability to just tell the story the way he wants to tell it, without worrying whether the audience actually buys the premise.
Unfortunately, the fact that it's so hard to buy the premise - that Wood would find anything to like in David - and the subsequent developments that occur leaves little to be desired. Whatever Works is a lot like an extended version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," only less funny and cringe-inducing. It's not nearly as good as the worst episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and so what's the point?
The performances are fine, though David merely plays an enhanced version of himself. Wood is cute and entertaining, though this can hardly be called one of her better roles. Clarkson is OK but doesn't get to show much range.
Whatever Works feels less like a Woody Allen movie and more like an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," only not as good. It has its moments, but ultimately lacks the edginess that "Curb Your Enthusiasm" maintains on a weekly basis. This is one that can be skipped.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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