Previous Review
Next Review
October 29, 2009
Review - " Whatever Works "  -  (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to
Evan Rachel Wood in pigtails makes a stark contrast to the older Larry David
Whatever Works movie poster
Whatever Works
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed
Bagley Jr

Whatever Works is familiar territory for a Woody Allen comedy. It
centers on a relationship between an older man and a very young
woman. It’s got a slight genre-bending gimmick but mostly it’s just a
likeable romp. Of course there’s a threesome, but only in
the B story this time.

Attempting to impress his ideologies on religion, relationships, and
the randomness (and worthlessness) of existence, lifelong New
York resident Boris Yellnikoff rants to anyone who will listen,
including the audience. Boris is a 50-something quantum physics
genius who has somehow managed to fail at his career, his
marriage, suicide, and virtually everything else other than
pontificating – with a glorious cynical wit – on the misery of life, the
wretched state of the human race and the pointlessness and
ridiculousness of our doomed existence. But when he begrudgingly
allows naive Mississippi runaway Melodie St. Ann Celestine to
live in his apartment, his reclusive rages give way to an unlikely
friendship and Boris begins to mold the impressionable young
girl’s worldly views to match his own. When it comes to love,
“whatever works” is his motto, but his already perplexed life
complicates itself further when Melodie’s parents eventually track
her down.
Whatever Works is a quirky film, written and directed by Woody Allen. The movie was written and directed well, but Larry
David steals the show and makes the film. Whatever Works really brings through the point of Whatever Works, especially
since the plot is pretty irrelevant. From the very beginning his character Boris grabs you and through his faults and random
jabbering you learn a lot about Boris and the world in general. Boris doesn’t start off very likable, and in fact he is very bitter
and negative, but by the end of the film you can’t help but to feel for him.

Larry David is not doing Woody Allen, nor is he doing Larry David. Of course there are some neuroses but they are played
more as acknowledgments of facts, not anything to be anxious about. He’s a hypochondriac and cynical about romance, yet
he’s practical. He’s definitely playing a better person than the Larry David on Curb.

His character is a genius so they have fun with the burden of knowing everything, having seen it all, but he also seems at
peace with the inevitable disappointment that comes with the end of any life moment. This is just how it is and it’s happening
again. David’s performance makes it all real, not a caricature. Demanding more than clichés from people is actually
admirable. Even his condescending remarks sound sweet because he really means is.

He takes breaks from the scene to talk to the audience, so Woody Allen has gone from pulling obscure authors off the
street and interacting with a Greek chorus to doing Ferris Bueller. At least it’s not a stupid gimmick like Scoop, Jade
Scorpion or Hollywood Ending. It’s just not original.

The impact of intellect on a flighty youth is actually sweet. Evan Rachel Wood is as adorable as Mira Sorvino was, or as
Mariel Hemingway probably was or the first time we saw Diane Keaton. She’s bright, cheery, innocent. The mismatch is
classic, whether in buddy action or odd couple comedies. The classics still work. Also Anal Sphincter is funny because it’s

Woody Allen remains perceptive about
people’s tendencies. There are some
clever one-liners but also situational
comedy where you set up crazy elements
and watch them go. It shows people
evolving. Allen may be evolving with
modern issues too, as he throws in some
topical observations regarding the gay
rights movement that seem like new
territory for him as far as I recall.

The events that unfold during the movie
seem absurd at times, but they still seem
to fit in the film. Whatever Works may not
be a movie for everyone, but the dialogue
and acting from Larry David make it a very
good film. You definitely need an open
mind to view it because a lot of ideologies
are pushed through and may not be for