Movie Review: Whatever Works(‏ (2009

Posted: August 19, 2012 in Comedy


Boris (Larry David) is an opinionated old curmudgeon, with a particularly bleak worldview.  He used to be a physicist specializing in String Theory, which is why he thinks his views are superior to everyone else’s.  To earn money now, he teaches chess to kids and calls them inchworms derisively.  He used to be married, but that proved too much of a challenge, so he got a divorce.  Boris also tried to kill himself, but bounced off the awning and now walks with a limp.

One day, a pretty girl from Mississippi named Melody (Evan Rachel Wood) knocks on the door.  She asks to stay because she has nowhere to live.  Boris and Melody end up living together, and soon Melody tells Boris that she has feelings for him.  Not only that, but her sunny personality has adopted some of the same bleak attitudes that Boris has.  Flash forward and Boris and Melody are married for a year, and both seem to be very happy.  Just when Melody thought that she was headed for wedded bliss for as long as Boris lives, she hears a knock on the door only to see her mother Marietta (Patricia Clarkson) standing there.  This is the same mother that Melody ran away from, so she is less than pleased to see her.  Marietta is underwhelmed by Melody’s choice of husbands, and actively tries to break up Boris and Melody by introducing her to a young and handsome suitor named Randy. (Henry Cavill). Does her mother’s plan work or do the odd couple of Melody and Boris stay married.

This movie starts off like a comedic house on fire.  The jokes keep coming one after another.  Larry David’s rapid fire delivery helps the movie maintain it’s frenetic pace for about 15 minutes.  Then as the supporting characters are introduced the jokes slow down.  The arc of the love story such as it is, is predictable.  For all his grousing, the viewer could tell that Boris was falling for Melody, so it’s boy meets girl, boy hates girl, boy loves girl, and boy marries girl, even though the “boy” in this case is in his 60’s.  In what world would a 20 something girl fall for a 60 something guy?  One can’t help but think that this movie is somehow autobiographical.  Ultimately the writing is a letdown.  The secondary characters are woefully underwritten, the Southern characttors are stereotypically one dimensional.  Melody is sweet, simple-minded and trusting, Marietta is a Bible thumper, and Melody’s dad is a gun nut.  Allen does try to turn these stereotypes on their head later in the film but that too is predictable.  The ending is just too Hollywood and not enough Woody Allen.  Larry David is excellent, he is asked to carry this movie and does.  Evan Rachel Wood is good, but is restrained by her syrupy sweet character.  The rest of the characters muddle through.  Having said all that, it’s still a funny film thanks mostly to Larry David, and still worth a rent.

Whatever Works.  Stops working about half way through but still packs laughs.


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