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Whatever Works

2009-10-30 16:55
Whatever Works

What it's about:

A script Woody Allen wrote in the 1970s finally gets realised for the screen, with Larry David as a misanthropic older man who addresses the audience directly with his analysis of the world he lives in. 

What we thought:

Larry David has no enthusiasm to curb in this strangely funny piece about a man who doesn’t have a lot of time for humanity, and although his somewhat one-dimensional take on life can get a bit much after a while, the script has all the sharpness of vintage Woody Allen, who proves (if any filmmaker does) that every filmmaker basically says the same thing over and over again.

The movie has many classic elements of an Allen film. The miserable, unattractive older man that the fresh, idealistic and desirable young woman finds inexplicably attractive, for instance. The rambling dialogue. The isolation of the primary character from society.  The white-on-black classic titles and the New York setting (it’s the first Allen film to be made there in a while).

But repetition isn’t always bad, if what’s being repeated is worth repeating.  And Whatever Works is stylishly simple, pretentious, shot in retro shades, tedious, annoying, brilliant and occasionally funny. As in the classics, every character talks a lot like er… Woody Allen. In other words, Whatever Works offers everything that makes Woody Allen a great director whether you like his work, agree with him shagging his step-daughter, or detest his style.

No, this is no lost masterpiece on the level of Annie Hall or Manhattan. The way the main character addresses the audience behind the screen (which might have been revolutionary when it was written) seems a bit hackneyed and fake now.

But the movie still does have a lot to say:  That we are none of us heroes , or perfect people. That being clever won’t make you happy. That we think we want to die because our lives seem pointless but we can’t help living our lives anyhow. That we are not nearly as important as we imagine ourselves to be. Get what you can from life, the movie seems to say. Do your best.

Or – what the hell –  do your worst! As Larry’s character frequently does – telling an adoring mother just how stupid her son is and refusing to pretty up his viewpoints on history. There is no reliable moral compass, the movie seems to say; only an easy way and a hard way.
And let’s face it: if anyone has tested that philosophy in real life, Woody Allen has.

Essential viewing for Allen fans. 

Larry David plays a misanthrope on a mission to be understood by humankind in Woody Allen’s grimly funny new film.

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