The crux of this odd love story involves the unlikely friendship between David's character (the brilliant, kvetchy Boris) and the Southern beauty queen with a heart of gold and a brain of wide-open spaces, Melodie (the always-surprising Evan Rachel Wood). Boris takes on Melodie as a tutorial project, showing her the bleak ways of the world, and Melodie takes care of Boris with crayfish and Fred Astaire movies. There are other memorable performances by Patricia Clarkson, as Melodie's deeply religious and tightly wound mama, and Ed Harris, as her husband, a Southerner slightly to the right of George Wallace. The parents come to the big city to reclaim their wayward lamb, and when the Southerners meet the New Yorkers, sparks fly--in ways both good and slightly scary.
The film works because of the unlikely chemistry between the two stars and because of David's unflinchingly dyspeptic portrayal, which--while not exactly cozy to watch--is undeniably brilliant. The two find that their oddball friendship helps each of them find a little more meaning in their lives. "Whatever works"--a simple but profound recipe for happiness. --A.T. Hurley