Whatever Works, Woody Allen’s newest homage to aging, neurotic Jewish men, falls back on some pretty worn-out clichés. Which is a pity, given that Allen recruited kvetch-on-high Larry David to play the lead, Boris Yellnikoff. As a crotchety, death-obsessed jerk, Boris is taken for a ride when pretty young country gal Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) stumbles her way into to his quintessentially pessimistic world. Naïve, Southern, and well, dumb, Melodie falls in love with Boris and the exoticism of his biting sarcasm and wit. Unfortunately for Boris, Melodie’s loony, backwater family (played by Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr.) begins to arrive, culture shocked and verse spitting as to be expected. But New York will make born-again Bohemians of these country mice soon enough. It’s like one big caricatured Manhattan boot camp for the sexually and culturally repressed.
I’ll give credit where it’s due -- I was genuinely surprised that Woody Allen didn’t cast himself to sleep with someone a third his age. But I wasn’t surprised, or really entertained, by the yin-and-yang treatment he gives his one-dimensional characters. Allen’s own brand of biting sarcasm and wit definitely brings some cackles. But the whole narrative seems like a predictable cop-out. Maybe it would be wise to wait nine months for Allen’s next inevitable release.
-- MIKE BERLIN
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