Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Whatever Works

Grade: A-

Whatever Works is about a New York resident, Boris Yellnikoff, who will rant to anybody who will listen (including the movie audience) about his dim views on everything from religion to politics to relationships to the randomness (and in his opinion worthlessness) of life. One day a young runaway from Mississippi, Melodie St. Ann Celestine, shows up by his apartment and somehow manages to convince him to let her stay with him for a couple of days while she tries to find a job and get on her feet. That couple days turns into a couple weeks which turns into a couple months, all the while the reclusive Boris begins to form a very unlikely friendship with her while his ideologies are rubbing off on her as well. When it comes to love for Boris "whatever works" is his motto which complicates his already complicated life when Melodie's parents show up in New York looking for her.

Whatever Works is the latest movie written and directed by Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point) and his movies are always very hit and miss with me. I loved Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex and Manhattan Murder Mystery but his movies of late, like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Anything Else, I have really hated. This movie was great though, very funny and entertaining the whole way through. At the beginning of the movie Boris is talking, alright more griping, about religion to his friends, he then gets up and starts talking to the camera, this is great because everybody else sees him doing this but they all think he’s basically talking to himself and is therefore crazy. The movie goes through how Boris and the city of New York really change Melodie, and more so her parents in some very bizarre and hilarious ways.

Larry David (TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm) plays the main character Boris Yellnikoff, and he does a spectacular job. Boris is a genius (he says he was nominated for a Nobel Prize and has an IQ of 200) and was a professor in physics and taught string theory, it seems that because of all of this Boris feels that life is meaningless and can therefore come off as very abrupt sometimes. He now teaches kids to play chess and seems to hate that as all the kids are moronic zombies to him. Then again, he seems to feel everybody is a moronic zombie compared to him. Larry David is absolutely hilarious in this role, I could not stop laughing at just about everything he said. Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Across the Universe) played the young Mississippi debutante Melodie St. Ann Celestine. Evan Rachel Wood did a great job with this role and further proved that her career is going to go far. She does a wonderful job portraying the young woman’s naiveté at the beginning of the movie and showing her evolve into a smart independent woman. The vast majority of the movie revolves around these two characters but we do also see appearances by Michael McKean, Samantha Bee, Ed Bagley Jr. and Patricia Clarkson.

This movie was fantastic and well worth watching. It kept me laughing from start to finish and actually had a very intriguing story line. I recommend Whatever Works to all fans and non fans of Woody Allen’s movies.

P.S. I think I have discovered why I like this movie so much given that I tend to hate Woody Allen’s recent movies. I found out that he wrote this script back in the mid-seventies (when he was at the top of his game) but decided not to make it when the actor he wanted to play Boris died. He kept it and when the writer’s strike was about to start he pulled it out and decided it would be his next movie.

Great Quote: “What? You didn’t know that you have to sing Happy Birthday twice to get all the germs off your hands?”

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