Monday, November 09, 2009

Whatever Works: Grade F


Whatever Works (2009)

Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begely Jr.; Writer-Director Woody Allen.

And whatever does not work should not be foisted off. This movie is close to completely unwatchable, that’s how painfully bad it is, and that is remarkable for a long-time Woody Allen fan to say. An elderly New York misanthrope (David) rants without mercy about how he is a misunderstood genius but the rest of humanity is scum. This might have been funny in high school, but for an adult movie it is extremely lame.

David’s performance is amazingly stiff and you can actually see him glance at the script on occasion. All the actors chronically suffer from having their mouths too full of words to deliver any meaningful lines. Patricia Clarkson is by far the strongest, although Wood does as well as she can with a miserable role.

The overarching theme of the film is that one should not be constrained by society’s traditional ideas of what a “normal” relationship is. Old guys and young foxes are ok (David-Wood), homosexuality is fine, and if ménage a trois works for you then go for it. This is not exactly a mind-bending concept. The movie does not even bother to showcase Manhattan as so many other Woody Allen movies have. Allen “breaks the fourth wall” as they say, by having David address the camera and the audience directly, and in the beginning, even gives a longish soliloquy in second person voice, an impressive writer’s tour de force. But alas, even that speech is stultifying in its banality. High schoolers and younger might find something to like in this movie, but to any normal adult, I am sorry to report it is a disaster.

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