Saturday, February 13, 2010

Whatever Works

Okay, I'm a Woody Allen fan. Somehow, his sense of humor really connects with me and has ever since I heard is first comedy album in 1964. As far as I'm concerned, nobody can make existential despair funnier than Allen.

And it's very funny in Whatever Works, which for me is the funniest movie Allen's made in many years. I laughed out loud many times. Larry David stars, but he's pretty much playing the character that Woody Allen has played many times before. Sure, he's much less pleasant than Allen, more caustic and insulting, but the philosophy he spouts (sometimes directly to the camera) is familiar.

Evan Rachel Wood is adorable as Allen's typical fantasy figure, the pretty, very young woman who falls for the older man. She also turns out to be much smarter than David thinks she is. The whole cast is fun, but I liked Patricia Clarkson especially. There's also one of Allen's tie-it-all-up happy endings. I like those, too.

18 comments:

Mr. Philoctetes Digressius (aka L. E. McKenna) said...

This has nothing whatsoever to do with this post, except that I was on the toilet the other day reading a funny four-page story (I was there a bit) about Woody's take on the mob and mafia and mafioso, et. al.

What I really want to ask:

That book title "Backward Mule" sounds like a sexual position. Could you elucidate, please?

Bill Crider said...

I have the book, but I haven't read it. I have a feeling it's not as romantic as all that.

James Reasoner said...

I haven't been able to make it through a Woody Allen movie in years, after being a huge fan of his work back in the Sixties and Seventies. I'll have to give this one a try.

Bill Crider said...

Someone told me this one was written in the '70s, shelved, and then brought out and polished up for Larry David. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, it would explain why I found it funnier than some of the other recent ones.

Charlieopera said...

We loved this movie ... Even Rachel Wood was phenomenal ... LD is always funny ... add Woody and bada-boom, bada-bing ... hilarious.

I thought Wood was good in The Wrestler but this was over the top terrific.

Bill Crider said...

I agree. I was surprised by how good she was.

Laurie said...

It's nice to see Woody get a good review for once. I've always liked him, but the past few years have been very trying. Melinda and Melinda was so pretentious I thought I would die watching it. The only good thing I think he's done in the past five years was Match Point, which was a drama. I'll look out for this one.

Charlieopera said...

I didn't get to see Melinda and Melinda (didn't even know about it--my bad), but Match Point was really terrific.

Vince said...

You're right about the history of this script. Woody Allen initially wrote it for Zero Mostel, had to set it aside, and revived it 30 years later. This movie took me by surprise. It's minor Woody, but enjoyable and rather heartfelt.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the confirmation, Vince. Even minor Allen movies are often very funny to me. This one was.

Max Allan Collins said...

Though a Woody Allen fan -- and one who has liked a lot films by him that others dismiss -- I found this one unbearable. I'm also a Larry David fan, which makes my reaction surprising. My wife walked out about half-way through (we were watching it on blu-ray). She also usually has a high Allen tolerance.

I found it stilted in terms of dialogue, painfully play-like (in the sense of a theater piece), with unbelievable and often annoying characters, particularly the homeless girl and especially her mother, and with Allen's sometimes cringe-worthy New York is Wonderful and New Yorkers Are Special attitudes. Go to New York and discover you're gay! Yay.

I would have voted for leaving this one in the drawer.

Just shows that we all react to this stuff differently.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to watch Woody's new movies in years, though Jackie agrees with you about MATCH POINT.

I'll stick to the early stuff, if you don't mind.

Single funniest line in a Woody Allen movie that you do need to be a New Yorker to get (without an explanation) was in SLEEPER, when the protagonist is told that the old world was destroyed when "a man named Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead."

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

I remember Albert Shanker. Maybe being a teacher has something to do with it.

George said...

Either WHATEVER WORKS opened and closed in a week, or it just didn't make it to any of our dwindling number of theaters. I'll have to catch it on DVD. I remember when Albert Shanker wrote a weekly column in the NY TIMES "Week in Review" section. However, he never mentioned nuclear weapons.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Allen has a way with the easy joke--Shanker was seen as, shall we say, an Adamant union man, nationwide (as a joke, it simply flips Tom Lehrer's "Who's Next?": We'll all try to stay serene and calm/When Alabama gets the Bomb"). Even as a reader of the former at the time, I could see the wit in the line about the merger of DISSENT and COMMENTARY as DISYNTERY...which I'm reminded of since I bought my first issue of DISSENT in a decade or more today.

I haven't enjoyed an Allen film thoroughly since A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S, but I've not tried much, and even by then I was a little tired of the recurring theme of Stupid Women Who Don't See the Inherent Sexiness of Woodman Beneath the Schlemiel, Or Don't Appreciate It Enough. The recurring kid lover theme has been rather offputting for even more immediate reasons, of course.

Todd Mason said...

Hm. Make that DYSENTERY. I know, a corrction that Needed to be made.

Stephen B. said...

I finally saw WHATEVER WORKS. I had no idea about this film, but I liked it. It's familiar to many other Allen films I've seen over the years.




However, I decided to then check rottentomatoes and it has extremely mixed reviews - that's how it goes.

Bill Crider said...

You can't please everybody. Hey, whatever works.