Whatever Works

Year: 2009
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Larri Davids, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr, Michael McKean

Say what you like out Allen's output over the last two decades. Maybe Scoop and Vicky Christina Barcelona was a return to form after a long dark night.

Taken in that context, Whatever Works is the most faithful return to Allen's old form there's ever been. Like few other filmmakers around, every one of his films is held up in contrast and comparison to his other work, and maybe that's not fair. Maybe all this talk of returning to form is disingenuous and we should judge each of his movies on its merit.

Even with that yardstick Whatever Works is a rousing success. The most obtusely funny of Allen's films, there are more overt jokes and gags than we're used to from him, but the intelligence fans love him for is still firmly installed in every cynical line.

Staying behind the camera, Allen's cast Larry David in the role he himself would normally play, and I couldn't help wishing Allen had played Boris Yelnikoff, a terminally grouchy old Jewish New York cynic, the kind of character Allen writes, performs and directs best.

Yelnikoff is happy sitting in a coffee shop with his buddies lecturing them on how hopeless life and the human race is and angrily snapping and insulting the kids he teaches to play chess on the side.

When chirpy, ditzy small town runaway Melodie (Wood) stumbles into his life, an Allenesque comedy of romantic errors ensues as Boris' life is turned upside down, with everyone from his friends to Melodie's God-fearing southern parents joining the fray.

David is great as Allen's stand-in, his script (as always) gets the most out of accomplished actors, and yes, I realise most of my comments about this film have compared it to Allen's other work - see how hard it is not to?

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