Review: WHATEVER WORKS is intellectual summer fun!

Woody Allen's first New York set movie in a decade, finally reaches the U.K!

rating: 3

Whatever Works marks Woody Allen€™s return to his beloved New York after a six year European vacation that has blended the promising abnormalities of Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona with the disappointing lows of Scoop and Cassandra€™s Dream. It is also a return to familiar characters, themes and stylistic flourishes: the central emotionally conflicted neurotic genius, the at-odds partnership between intellectually incompatible personalities, the direct-to-the camera narration and the psychological/physiological bantering about the absurdity of human existence all within the social confides of cafe culture locales. So there are many reasons why Whatever Works should, well work. The real trump card being the match-made-in-comedy-heaven teaming of comedy geniuses Allen and TV's Mr unlovable Larry David. The genius behind Seinfeldand front-man of Curb Your Enthusiasmis the quintessential Allenesque character; all loose mannerisms and nervous energy with an impulsive cynicism that transforms him into the pinnacle misanthrope. David plays former Columbia professor and self-proclaimed genius Boris Yelinikoff: an obnoxious and disgruntled soul who was €˜almost nominated for the Nobel Prize€™. Boris divorces his rich wife because she is too perfect for him, attempts (and fails) a suicide and swaps his modern chic apartment for a grungy Chinatown dwelling more suitable for a bohemian existence. He spends his days insulting the small children he teaches chess and his evenings complaining about the pointlessness of life to his downtrodden friends.

One day he encounters a young, naive, optimistic Mississippi runaway named Melody (The Wrestler€™s Evan Rachel Wood) who begs to move in with him. Reluctantly Boris relents and invites her in. She warms to his intellect and a relationship develops which challenges his pessimistic take on life. However things get complicated when Melody€™s overbearing parents (Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr) turn up to €˜rescue€™ their daughter back. Soon they all undergo life-changing experiences that reassert the film€™s titular motto: that €˜whatever works€™ will make you happy. From the character-to-screen outset Allen is relishing his return to his favourite city and it is clear he hasn€™t had this much fun since 2000€™s Small Time Crooks. But there is a sense that he is covering all too familiar ground, which threatens to sideline the film as another of his decidedly pedestrian later day efforts. Luckily (unlike Jason Biggs, Kenneth Branagh, Will Ferrell et al) Larry David is an amicable €˜Woody Allen€™ surrogate and his take on life€™s idiocies is often amusing - if not perhaps reaching the level of hilarity witnessed in Curb. While Clarkson€™s Southern mum turns up just as the narrative doldrums begin to kick in, providing an amusing adversity to David€™s sardonic musings. She also provides the get-go to of one of the film's funniest lines: "I can't go back to you I live with two guys I love in a very happy ménagea trois" to which Ed Begley Jr congenital church-going ex replies: "A what? I knew we should never have trusted the goddamn French". Easily Allen€™s best New York-set film since 2000€™s Small Time Crooks, Whatever Works is an amusing return to the Big Apple. While it may not be the Allen/David partnership we were all craving, it should be enough to please fans who prefer their Woody Allen comedies light, fresh and familiar.

Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick. Previously he contributed to and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies. His blog is: