Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Whatever Works: This movie doesn't really, but it's Woody Allen, so whatever

A movie review!

Whatever Works
2009, Directed by Woody Allen

Oh lord, if you thought it was creepy when Woody Allen romanced Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, well, it's about 30 years later, and his character (this time played by Larry David, but as we know, it's still Woody) is still going after girls the same age. Yikes. It could be argued that it's not really the same thing; he's not the insatiable sex-hound of his younger days, and she ends up romancing him and acting as more of a caretaker than a sex toy. No, the real offense is the portrayal of the American South as a bunch of backward dummies ready to be imprinted with New York sophistication (not to mention alternative sexuality). Evan Rachel Wood plays a runaway high school dropout that convinces David (playing a failed genius physicist and suicidal misanthrope) to let her stay with him, and she's so fresh-faced and innocent that she believes him when he tells her that she (along with everyone else in the world) is an idiot, God doesn't exist, life is meaningless, and so on. So of course she gets a crush on him and wins him over with her complete, unreserved acceptance of his beliefs, tastes, and daily routines, and they get married. Things get complicated when her mom (played by Patricia Clarkson as a Jesus freak who discovers an artistic side and a penchant for fucking many men) shows up and decides to break them up, but it all works out in the end.

You can't really expect too much from Woody Allen at this point in his career, at least when he's going for this sort of light, New York-based comedy rather than attempting to push himself in new directions, but it is kind of galling to see how out of touch he is with anything outside of New York. Oh, those country bumpkins; if only they could be educated by city slicker cynicism, they would give up their backwardness and become just like us! It's actually pretty hilarious. Larry David plays the role as a mixture of his Curb Your Enthusiasm self and the more misanthropic versions of Woody's character. He's funny, but a pretty bad actor for the most part, especially when he has to freak out about his nightlight being off or being gripped by existential despair (he's kind of an OCD-addled mess). A recurring Woody-style motif has him talking to the camera, but in full view of other characters, who just think he's kind of crazy. Eh, it's really not a very good movie, but it's still enjoyable for Woody fans like me. I can't hate him; he's like my senile old uncle, and there are glimmers of smartness underneath the pretension. Hey, you take what you can get these days.