Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

The Game Remains The Same: Woody Allen's "Whatever Works"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire June 17, 2009 at 1:18AM

Marked by interchangeably trite and witty dialogue, "Whatever Works" is the definition of a minor Woody Allen movie. The director's triumphant return to New York City after several years of European excursions finds him in familiar, if not exemplary, form. Most people on the Allen bandwagon will likely view this outing as a charming mediocrity. The decision to cast "Seinfeld" creator and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David in the standard "Woody" role, of course, forms a theoretical match made in heaven. In practice, however, David's neurotic insanity generally works just well enough to smooth over the awkward gaps in this half-baked plot. As a cantankerous physicist named Boris, David gets the opportunity to express relentlessly mean-spirited observations to everyone around him, including the audience. "This is not the feel-good movie of the year," he tells the audience. Not that we would expect it to be.
1

Marked by interchangeably trite and witty dialogue, "Whatever Works" is the definition of a minor Woody Allen movie. The director's triumphant return to New York City after several years of European excursions finds him in familiar, if not exemplary, form. Most people on the Allen bandwagon will likely view this outing as a charming mediocrity. The decision to cast "Seinfeld" creator and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David in the standard "Woody" role, of course, forms a theoretical match made in heaven. In practice, however, David's neurotic insanity generally works just well enough to smooth over the awkward gaps in this half-baked plot. As a cantankerous physicist named Boris, David gets the opportunity to express relentlessly mean-spirited observations to everyone around him, including the audience. "This is not the feel-good movie of the year," he tells the audience. Not that we would expect it to be.

Limping around as the result of a botched suicide attempt, the character monstrously embodies the characteristics of Allen's worst protagonists. Why, then, would a sweet and rather simple-minded southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood), melt into his arms? That question never gets an answer as the girl, Melodie, randomly shows up at Boris's doorstep after an ambitious journey from Mississippi and immediately crushes on him. Faster than the rhythm of a classic jazz tune, the two lovers become husband and wife. Their "marriage" has less credibility than the plot of "Bananas": It's random, abrupt and utterly non-romantic. We never even see them kiss. "I have been patient with your phenomenal ignorance," he tells her, but the cynicism -- just like their shared passion -- doesn't appear to register.

Logistical holes notwithstanding, there's something strangely comforting about getting immersed in the Twilight Zone of Allen's anachronistic New York. Melodie's arch-conservative parents (Ed Begley Jr. and Patricia Clarkson, both energetic and delightful) show up in search of their daughter and almost immediately become converted into chic city dwellers -- which means gay, Jewish, artsy, promiscuous and so on. The rare presence of a homosexual character in Allen's world doesn't have the comedic resonance one might expect, but it's an intriguing addition. However, "Whatever Works" mainly testifies to Allen's devout consistency. The times are always a-changin', but Woody remains the same.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE's coverage of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

This article is related to: In Theaters, Whatever Works






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More