Film Review: Whatever Works

05/07/2010

Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, released only recently in the UK, sees a return to form for one of cinema’s most industrious directors and screenwriters.

Boris is an aging, cynical New Yorker set in his ways. When he decides to let a young runaway stay at his apartment, the two form an unlikely friendship, influencing each others’ long-standing beliefs…

Taking the action back to New York was a good move by Allen; it is the setting of some of his best work, after all. Not only is the city presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but it also acts as a powerful force within the movie. New York offers the freedom for people to truly be themselves, or at least this is what Whatever Works suggests. 

Allen is back on top form with his writing. The dialogue of Whatever Works showcases his talents at their best; it is witty and intelligent, yet relatable. Unfortunately the director does not appear in this film. He is, however, manifest in the character of Boris; the idiosyncrasies, the neuroses and the attitude is plain to see.

Larry David does an excellent job as protagonist Boris. At times an unlikeable character, nevertheless there is something intensely human (that is to say fallible) about him, which makes it easy to relate to him. Rachel Evan Wood gives a good performance as the young Melody, and Patricia Clarkson excels in her supporting role.

Whatever Works, like most Woody Allen films, won’t appeal to everyone. However, it is both an enjoyable and a well-made film. Unlike so much of mainstream Hollywood’s recent output, the film offers good writing, good performances, and that crucial element of originality.

Whilst last year’s Vicky Christina Barcelona was a cut above a lot of other releases, it lacks the warmth that emanates from Whatever Works. At the beginning, Boris tells the audience that this isn’t a “feel-good film”. But it really is, as the underlying premise is an immensely positive one. By this standard, Allen’s next release, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, is eagerly anticipated.

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