Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Starring: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Henry Cavill, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McKean
Running Time: 92 minutes
Genre: Comedy, romance
Summary: New York City: Boris Yelnikoff (David) is a misanthropic, hypochondriac chess teacher and one time professor of quantum physics. Hating the universe and pretty much everything in it, Boris has little regard for human weakness, but regards himself as a towering genius, frequently pointing out that he was almost nominated for a Nobel Prize. He avoids human contact as much as possible and his rudeness and constant criticisms manage to alienate everyone he comes into contact with. He is also given to long, angry rants about anyhting and everything, which he delivers to anyone who will listen (including the audience).
One night he comes across Melodie St. Anne Celestine (Wood), a 21 year old runaway from Mississipi, who is friendly, unfailingly cheerful and positive, and not particularly bright. Grudgingly, Boris allows her to stay in his flat, and as his attitude towards her gradually begins to thaw, the two fall for each other and eventually get married.
One year later, Marietta (Clarkson), Melodie's devoutly religious and strongly traditional mother, arrives and she and Boris hate each other instantly. Before too long the situation becomes more complex.
Opinions: This film marks Allen's return to New York City after shooting four films in Europe, and also marks a return to the type of comedy that made his name. Allen originally wrote the film in the late 1970s for Zero Mostel to star in, but shelved it after the actor's death. Allen claimed that the only changes he made to the script were to update the topical references.
In the lead role is Larry David, best known as the co-creator of smash hit sitcom Seinfeld (1992 - 1998) and as the writer and star of semi-improvised cult sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 - ongoing). Here he plays the typical Woody Allen-esque leading man: Neurotic, wisecracking, New York intellectual. It is a perfect match for Larry David's own comedy persona. Evan Rachel Wood complements him well as the adorable, ditzy Melodie. Even though it is kind of diffuclt to see exactly what she sees in the patronising and rude grumpy old man.
The movie is very typical Allen, and will probably please his fans, and is funny and engaging enough to appeal to non-fans as well. The film starts slowly, and the film does feel padded in places, also some of the situations feel quite contrived, but it is entertaining. It features a running joke where Boris addresses the audience directly, much to the puzzlement of the other characters who apparently can't see the audience and believe that Boris is talking to himself.
"Love, despite what they tell you, does not conquer all, nor does it even usually last. In the end, the romantic aspirations of our youth are reduced to, whatever works."
-Boris Yelnikoff (Larry David) in Whatever Works
Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood in Whatever Works