Monday, November 2, 2009

Woody Meets Larry and it 'Works'

Is it even necessary to start out by saying that I'm a huge Woody Allen fan? Is it even possible for someone to love film without being a huge Woody Allen fan? I say, no. The man is a genius. Yes, he's become a tad predictable in adhering to the New York-intellectuals-lament-love-with-age-diverse-pairings-and-ultimately-come-together-during-celebratory-party-while-vintage-clarinet-jazz-music-colors-the-scene formula. But there's still a little magic there.

To find Larry David inhabiting the lead (the Woody role, par usual) in "Whatever Works" is Woody's most brilliant casting to date. Larry David is so lovable and believable that we can even forgive the absurdity of the prerequisite, later years Woody standard: the nubile young beauty who falls in love with the cantankerous old man. We can also forgive the silliness of 'Boris Yellnikoff' (David) suddenly addressing the camera while his friends look on, wondering if he has lost his marbles. The typically semi-natural Woody dialogue becomes butter in David's mouth. Never a pause, never a falter, never a blip in how normal it all seems.

Yellnikoff is a bitter, self-proclaimed genius who lives alone in Manhattan. When he arrives home one night to find a needy young girl on his doorstep, he begrudgingly takes her in. 'Melodie' (Evan Rachel Wood) is the starry-eyed Southern girl who pours honey all over Yellnikoff's bile. When Patricia Clarkson, as her mother, 'Marietta,' enters the scene, we're in for a wild joy ride. From a repressed, religious Southern self-righteousness, to an expressive, uninhibited, threesome-living artist, Marietta makes a delicious transformation. 'John' (Ed Begley Jr.), Melodie's father, makes a less believable transformation.

Loaded with truisms about religion, politics, and the general state of things, burdened with a familiar plot, and sugar-coated with a formulaic ending...still. "Whatever Works" works, thanks to the wit and wisdom of Larry David.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Woody Allen met Sun Yi Previn when she was around 11as he started dating her stepmom, Mia Farrow. Although they never married Woody and Mia were together for a decade making him her de facto stepdad. He first admitted to having sex with her when she was 21 and in their messy custody battles Mia accused Allen of having molested two of the children with the 14-year old being old enough to opt out of any visitation by him. Since this scandal he has married and had children with Sun-Yi but the main characters in his subsequent films seem to be revealed as unsympathetic as ever.

I am a liberal and in no way a morality policeman here but seeing the schlepping Larry David, a man in his sixties on the couch in his old boxers being comforted by Evan Rachel Wood in her pigtails and who is acting more like a very young teenager than a 17 year old in her skimpy little clothes was just freakish to me knowing Allen’s history. This seemed more like an Allen version of “Lolita” than a funny little comedy. Why was it necessary to have her character be so young? What young attractive girl would fall for an old man who is not rich? Her parents’ instant conversion form Southern bible belters to ultraliberals also seemed more contrived than funny. I was a big Woody fan but his sexual peccadilloes definitely affect how much slack I give him when he seems to be a dirty old man using his rep to play out his fantasies. It has the Allen heart and David is perfect but- yuck!