Why is it ok for Woody Allen to have the same character in all his films? People tend to describe the lead in his movies as the “Woody Allen character.” Why is that ok? Isn’t that old and shouldn’t that be considered a major flaw? His character usually breaks the fourth wall and is usually pretty neurotic. There is nothing funny or original about these characters anymore when coming from Mr. Allen. WHATEVER WORKS is more of the same.
Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is the “Woody Allen character,” a bitter old man who believes he is smarter than the world and has a deeper understanding of the meaning or meaningless of life. He was almost nominated for a Nobel Prize and believes this is some sort of proof that he is better than everyone. He hesitantly allows a young naïve midwestern girl named Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) to move in. She idolizes everything he says and they strike up an unlikely but predictable relationship. Her divorced overly religious parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr. come looking for her but discover their true selves along the way.
I understand the irony of Boris missing out on the greatness of life because he’s too focused on the negative, but who wouldn’t be able to spot that. The major problem is that the film seems to respect this character, actually believing he is wiser than everyone and we should listen to all that he says, specifically with that gem of a statement, “whatever works.” I might be alone and I don’t want to go into it fully, but I disagree with this completely. It’s such a lazy sentiment. The only thing I can get on board with Boris is the way he hits and ridicules the children whom he teaches chess.
At the end of the film, we get a nice neat tight bow over everything with everyone happy. Everyone is with each of his or her respected mate and it should all work out just fine. What is different about the relationships at the end of the movie than at the beginning? Nothing. I’m sure if we extended the movie and followed these new relationships they probably would fall apart just as easily and quickly. In fact, we could probably reverse the story and begin with the ending relationships, watch them fail, then end with the movie’s beginning relationships. That would at least be more interesting and less cliché. Wow, I may have just written a better story.
I don’t believe WHATEVER WORKS gives anything fresh or original. These characters are too extreme, more like cartoon characters. Apparently anyone coming from the Midwest must be over religious and too dumb to think for themselves. More than likely, they are repressing homosexual urges or the need to sleep around and if that works, well then… whatever. Apparently that’s all that happens in New York anyway. This movie is insulting to everyone with half a brain. Without Woody Allen’s name being attached, this movie would not have received the star power or distribution. Don’t get me wrong; I love some of Woody Allen’s work. Annie Hall is brilliant, but that was done in 1977. Lets try a new shtick.