Whatever Works

COMEDY; 1hr 28min

STARRING: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood

Starting over: Wood and David

Larry David is abrasive to the point of seeming forced in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works. As New Yorker Boris Yellnikov, he is yet another gnarly angle in the film-maker’s jigsaw of endless self-exploration. “Give me a break with your could-have and should-haves!” he rants to a camera only he can see.


Boris is right at home with quantum mechanics but lost on the mechanics of life. All he wants, post-divorce and a failed suicide attempt, is to be left alone — until much younger Mississippi gal Melody St Ann Celestine (Wood) whirls into his crabby orbit. Melody is a flirty, dimwitted treasure, and defensive old Boris is hooked. The curmudgeon and the filly get married — which has been known to happen — and they’re jogging along just fine until her horrified mama (Patricia Clarkson) shows up at their shabby front door.


Allen can’t help but score some zingers: he is too smart by half, which both fires his dialogue-heavy screenplay and weighs it down with literary verbiage. This isn’t his finest hour: it’s too flaky and contrived for that. Still, it does come with a sprinkling of sugar and spice.