Whatever Works [Blu-ray]
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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 25, 2009
After a string of movies set in Europe, Woody Allen triumphantly returns to his beloved New York for Whatever Works. Since Allen releases a new film each year, it's hit-or-miss with him (rightfully so). This film got less-than-enthusiastic reviews and, as such, I wasn't expecting much from it...But the critics really misrepresented this film, as this is one of Woody's best comedies.

Larry David (of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame) plays Boris Yellnikoff, a caustic, retired physicist who walks with a limp due to a failed suicide attempt. Now, Boris teaches chess to "zombie-minded imbeciles." Evan Rachel Wood plays Melodie, a naïve runaway from Mississippi, who stumbles into Boris' life...Against all odds, the two marry and Melodie's parents (played wonderfully by Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr.) both, separately, find her.

I'm not familiar with Larry David's previous work, so I don't know how much of this performance carries over from his own persona; but David is playing the Woody Allen role here to perfection. David perfectly captures the neurotic, arrogant genius that is Boris and recites Allen's dialogue as if it comes straight from his own thoughts. Of course, this is a film filled with great performances as can be expected from a film by Woody Allen. Begley, Jr. is particularly surprising as Melodie's father...And while some may not be too impressed by Wood's performance as Melodie, she's very convincing and cute.

This is truthfully one of Allen's best comedies and an all-around great film. The dialogue here is typical, philosophical, sarcastic Allen...But it doesn't just elicit chuckles, but full-on, laugh-out-loud laughter. It's a very intelligent film that not ONLY ranks as one of Allen's best comedies, but one of his best films. I don't see how this film has not received the amount of praise it deserves, because I clearly saw something all the critic's didn't. While the past few years have shown a return to form for Allen, this film stands as a terrific achievement in the Allen catalogue. It's quite honestly one of the best films I've seen this year and it's not to be missed.

GRADE: A
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2009
Woody Allen has been a very lucky director in the history of Cinema. I can't think of any other director - with the exception, maybe, of Spielberg - that can still do "his" movies, even if they don't continuously make money. Indeed, with Allen you never know -- he can equally have a hit or a miss, but he still gets financing for his ideas. His latest, "Whatever Works," I am happy to say, is a hit. Actually more than a hit: a treasure. One the best films I have seen in a long time. It is smart and wicked, with great dialogue and very funny --Woody Allen's funny, that is, if you know what I mean: just plain good acting and inspired writing.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) describes himself as a "profound, sensitive soul, with an enormous grasp of the human condition," who always has nightmares about Joseph Conrad's "the horror." He is a brilliant man, who doesn't hesitate to refer to himself as a genius - he is a physicist, who specializes in Quantum mechanics. And he may be right. However, due to the nature of his character and personality, he is not easy to live with. He is divorced, and walks with a limb, because he tried to kill himself by jumping from a window. He earns a living by teaching kids how to play chess (insulting and degrading them), and getting together with his equally intellectual buddies, who patiently hear his rants about the decline of mankind. He claims that he spends his time "trying to express to cretins that, while a black man got into the White House, he still can't get a cab in New York." However, his structured life drastically changes when he meets Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood), a runaway that asked for his help at his doorstep, because she had nowhere to go. He reluctantly accepts, and invites her to stay for a couple of days. Of course, love blossoms, and despite their age and intellectual difference - he is much older and smarter than her -, they eventually get married. They actually live happily ever after - that is, until Marietta (Patricia Clarkson), Melodie's mother, suddenly comes into the picture.

"Whatever Works" functions at every level. It is original and hilarious, with Woody Allen providing evidence that he is still the best smart comedy writer that there is. It would not be a mistake to say that it probably captures Woody's inner feelings and current state of mind, which are summed up in one of the lines of the film: "In the end, the romantic aspirations of your youth are reduced to whatever works." In addition, it is also a subliminal critique to the right-wing mentality that permeates part of our culture. A comedy masterpiece. (USA / France, 2009, color, 92 mins).

Reviewed on October 27, 2009 by Eric Gonzales from [...]
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An incredibly well thought out film that confirmed a long held conviction of mine about what is really important about life. What is really important about life? Nothing specificaly. Whatever works is important for each of us. No prejudices, no preconceptions, no hook-ups. Of course, a corollary of this theory is that what is important for someone is not important for another.

Of course we all have out different tastes but I really don't understand those who say this movies is not funny. It is for me. Extremely. Witty, quick, and well maybe I am thick but I did not find it predictable at all.

I do agree with those who argued Woody might as well have played the protagonist's role. Why did he not? David acts so much like Woody. He actually even sort of looks like him. When I first saw the movie I assumed Allen was acting and took me several minutes to realize it was not him on the set!

Strongly recommended.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2010
Larry David does Mr. Cranky better than anyone and still remain funny. Pessimism as comedy is an art form when done right.

A totally different movie. Nice easy pace. Soundtrack is really good as Woody's movies usually have. Only a few laugh out loud moments for me but I had a smile the whole movie. Larry's line as they enter the photo gallery was hilarious. Just plain interesting movie. Really liked this one. Something NEW is almost always worth an extra star. E R Wood was really charming and with a very good supporting cast.

I hope Jessica Hecht gets more movies roles, very good presence but just a small part here. IMBD lists more roles coming up for her. Hope they're bigger. Woody is really good but some of his movies miss for me. Not this one. Worth seeing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
You want him to make nice? Ain't gonna happen! Woody is a "yiddisher Kop" (a wise guy) bread n' buttered. (Note that I'm mixing my cultural idioms here, just as the film mixes Manhattan and Mississippi, or "Bullets Over Broadway" with "Winter's Bone") "Whatever Works" is possibly Woody's truest-to-self since "Sleeper", but the film character Boris Yellnikoff isn't simply a Woody talk-alike. For one thing, he doesn't whine enough. For another, whatever you think, Boris is a nicer guy than Woody, a more empathetic cynic. Sure, he's a no-limits in-your-face cheap-shot put-down artist -- a New Yorker in short -- but he's also a soft touch. People who hate this film, of whom there are many, denounce Woody for imposing his own persona on the actor Larry David, who should have been allowed to write his own jokes. But those people are all 'fans' of Larry David, from some TV show I imagine, and I have the good luck never to have seen or heard of David before. Yes, there are moments in the film where Larry David captures Woody's affect perfectly, but he's 100% Boris Yelnikoff from start to finish. Hey, I know a guy like that! Some of my best friends are wise-whatevers.

Others who hate this film declare that they are offended by its derogatory stereotypes of Southerners and Christians. Yeah, so? Got something against reality? The transformation of the detestable Celestine mother and father into hip urbanites, effected merely by exposure to New York, is short of plausibility, no doubt. Yeah, so? "Stadtluft macht frei!" Got something against comedy? Besides, Melody Celestine, the sweet young runaway played by Evan Rachel Wood, remains faultlessly in type. The ensemble acting in this film is far tighter, in my estimation, than in either "Vicky Christina Barcelona" or "Midnight in Paris", Woody's more box-office successful recent films. In fact, I'd say the acting in this film is hecka good...

... and it's hecka funny. Even my wife, who adamantly denies Woody any absolution for his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, guffawed at some of the humor. [Contrary to popular opinion, by the way, Soon-Yi Previn was NOT Woody Allen's adopted daughter and did not grow up in his paternal care. Not that it's any of my business ...] It's a comedy of contrasts and of clashes between insecurities. Boris, the old grump who blabs constantly about his genius, is every bit as insecure as the bubbly Melody. He's a failed genius, and he knows it. She's a failed beauty queen and knows it. Back to those who hate this film, who deride the idea that a naive but gorgeous young woman could swoon over a bald mentor with a limp ... Got news for you, folks! Ask any college professor, orchestra conductor, or pastor of a mega-church whether this infatuation is plausible.

And yes, it is a 'feel good' movie, a little on the preachy side. Yeah, so? Got something against happiness? The preachment -- that the job of Life is to make the best of it -- is a commedia dell'arte dramatization of the wisdom of Baruch Spinoza, that other yiddisher Kop of yesteryear.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2011
Whatever Works starts out like it's going to be a really funny comedy with an old man constantly complaining about the world and its many assortment of problems. He even acknowledges the camera that's filming the movie and talks to us, the viewers, which is always a weird thing to see.

One night he comes home and notices an attractive young southern woman sleeping in a cardboard box outside on the streets, and the woman begs the old man to let her inside because she's starving. He does, and from here the storyline kicks in.

For most of the first half, the humor works really well. The old man continues to be a stubborn old goat who refuses to change his ways or his beliefs, but that doesn't stop the southern girl from admiring and eventually falling in love with the guy.

However about halfway through, the girls mother discovers where her daughter has been living, and this is the exact point where the humor completely disappears and the storyline falls apart. Apparently the mother likes sleeping around with at least two men at once, and she likes fixing up her daughter with men closer to her age because the mother believes marrying someone who's really old isn't right. However, this completely changes the atmosphere and more importantly, the *fun* the film had going for it.

This means we went from humor to a *really* boring drama with the inclusion of one more character (the mother and, to a lesser extent, the father too but that's not really a problem since the father didn't make an appearance until the end). The plot just completely collapses.

It's a shame because there was so much potential for the bitter old man to continue providing laughs by being ignorant and brutally honest, and it really seemed like the storyline was going somewhere interesting with an amazing conclusion but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be.

The final 30 minutes were completely dull. It was just a big romantic scene. The southern girl matured and quickly became boring. Her southern charm and her whacky behavior was tossed aside in order to participate in serious romantic scenes. The old man, as I mention above, not only stops being angry and bitter at the world, but he actually gets pushed out of the storyline for a good chunk of the final 30 minutes.

Overall, the first half is great, the second half not so much. You've been warned.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2012
OK, I will first admit I used to see anything by Woody Allen then I stopped. Maybe I was too young too appreciate him, maybe no one can make a good movie when they make one a year as I have heard he does. Maybe he makes great movies all the time, I don't know. I gave up watching him years ago after I watched a really boring movie. I am backtracking after this. This movie is great on so many levels. It tells a great story of life as it really is. It shows NY as only someone who has lived here all his life like Woody can show it. It has comedy, truth, good acting, humor, pathos, so what more does a movie need?
I found myself laughing out loud and since it was late at night I was afraid I would wake up the family. I do not laugh out loud often with movies anymore. I don't find most of what today passes as comedy as funny at all. This movie is funny. It is good. Personally I was hoping the plot would work out as it seemed to be but in the end it ended as it really should have and you should see it with nothing more in mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
No other writer/director is likely to make a film like this in this day and age of religious conservatism and social correctness. That's what makes Whatever Works work! See this if you are: a) a liberal; b)open-minded; c)a bit of an anarchist; d) a libertarian. If you are none of the above, but you really want something different in the way of an adult, well-written comedy, this is for you too. You won't be bored or disappointed. And 3 cheers for Larry David for a great performance!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2012
Whatever Works.

A recent critique of Whatever Works, on IMDB, was headed, "watching woody masterbate." Oi vey! Since Woody, Larry David, and I come from similar neighborhoods in Brooklyn (Brighton Beach and Flatbush) I thought to ask them what they thought of this review.
Larry David wrote, "He --the review's author -- is clearly one of the morons in the film, the kind of person Woody was talking about. A cretin. An inchworm. He can't even spell "masturbate." Yet he used it in the title. Imagine what people who can spell must think of him. His ignorance is stunning."
Woody was a bit more generous. "Really, he needs to see the film again. Assuming, that is, that he saw it in the first place. Did he even understand what was going on? When I write about masturbation I write about masturbation, not about meaning, or lack of it, in the life of a person who fears death. For me, masturbation is no laughing matter."
In any case, the reviewer didn't even comment on the film itself. One of the points of the film -- either missed through lack of acuity or because he didn't see the film -- is that everybody --Boris, and Marietta, Melody,and Jon Celestine, et. al. -- learns to accept social mores on the deepest level. They learn to give and to accept love. Just like in Love, Actually. But this film has teeth. It is skillful social commentary, critiquing bad behavior by ridiculing it -- much like Curb Your Enthusiasm -- rather than explicitly condemning it.
So, to the previous reviewer, my advice is: See it again. You might learn something. And enjoy lots of good laughs in the process. This film is one of Woody's funniest though it won't be for everybody's taste. It ranks with Annie Hall and Manhattan as Woody's best. Larry David is pretty, pretty, pretty good, too.
Yours,
Mrs. Nettie Konigsburg.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This movie is classic Woody Allen material unlike other recent films such as Scoop, Matchpoint, Anything Else, etc. (Matchpoint was great by the way). I believe Woody wrote Whatever Works many many years ago (70's or 80's) and it is certainly reflected in the attitude of this movie. Larry David is beyond brilliant effing perfection. I can't believe Woody has not used him before. This movie is one of my favorites, it is believable in its entirety especially in New York. The characters are well developed and executed and it just feels like a Woody Allen movie.

Its a complete bonus for me that there are a lot of shots in Chinatown, in particular down Division Street area under the Manhattan Bridge. I just love that area and its completely under used in film.

Woody made me very very happy with this one! I own it and watch it often when I feel crappy and need something great. A favorite line "Thats an awfully aggressive ensemble, are you looking to end up in an abortion clinic".
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