Review: ‘Whatever Works’

larry-david-whatever-works

I spent this weekend in my hometown of Lake Placid, New York, and it was also the weekend of the Lake Placid Film Forum.  As a college student at St. Bonaventure University, I interned at this film festival run by former New York Daily News film critic Kathleen Carroll. Working there summers in between semesters was always the highlight of my summer break until I graduated and had to move into the “real world.”  So this weekend was a nice reprieve to go back and see the familiar faces and the many people I greatly respect who run that festival.

I also saw Woody Allen’s latest film Whatever Works.

Starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen and Marilyn Manson’s ex-girlfriend) this stunted, half-thought out movie’s  sole highlight was just listening to Larry David talk.  I’m a Curb fan, and to be honest I could listen to Larry David talk about anything.  His cynicism and sharp comebacks are a highlight and this movie is a natural progression from his work on the HBO series. And in that sense, this film is like Woody Allen directing an episode of David’s Curb and not a Woody Allen film which happens to star Larry David.

Kathleen, a longtime friend of Allen’s, described his process on this movie as “digging it out of a pile of old scripts from the ’70s in the midst of the Writer Strike.”  “Woody being Woody,” Kathleen described, “was never comfortable when he wasn’t working.” She recalled that when not working, Allen was reduced to his nervous, jittery self everyone recognizes from a calm, collected person when on set.

However, this movie, though quite hilarious with Larry David’s character, feels like it was cobbled together as quickly as possible and not as fully realized as it could be.  David’s character is a brilliant physicist who takes in Evan Rachel Wood’s runaway teenager to teach her the way of the world.   As he preaches his cynical worldview, he attempts to make her realize that really all your life decisions should be based upon “whatever works” in that moment.

I don’t know, but I felt like this viewpoint was never explained clearly and maybe it was a decision on Woody’s part to show this view through direction rather than the character telling you, but the character has no problem telling you his views ever. So, I’m not really sure why this “whatever works” thought process comes off as vague. Its amazing though, while this movie was not quite as a finite and well made as his most recent movies like Vicki Christina Barcelona and Match Point, Woody continues to write and direct a enjoyable movie every year.

I’m constantly in awe of his level of quality, his sense of humor is enjoyable, and his direction very tight. Though this movie is not as quite up to the level of those two other films, I realized a pattern: Woody works in waves. This is not as a good, but the next one will surely rise and crest.

GRADE: C

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Whatever Works opens July 19th in New York and LA.

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