Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whatever works

I want to come out and say right from the top that I am not a big fan of Woody Allen. I find most of his movies to be autobiographical variations on the same neurotic theme based on Woody Allen's favorite subject: Woody Allen. And though they are always well-crafted and scripted, they generally annoy me in the same way I am annoyed by sitting in the same room with anyone from New York. I can't stand their accents and I'm sick of hearing how great New York is compared to the yokels in the rest of the country.

So with that declaration out of the way, I was skeptical when I was flicking through the On Demand movie selections and ran across a movie I'd never heard of called Whatever Works. The only reason I considered it was that it starred Larry David, the genius behind Seinfeld. And although I find him annoying for many of the same reason I am annoyed by Woody Allen, I also think he is funny. But even though I saw that Woody Allen had written and directed the film, I decided to give it a try.

The film centers around lifelong New York resident (where else does anyone in a Woody Allen script live) Boris Yellnikoff , a former Physicist turned chess teacher. Yellinikoff, like every Woody Allen character, suffers from frequent anxiety attacks, insomnia and hypochondria. Yellnikoff fancies himself a genius and pretty much thinks everyone else in the world is an idiot (again something he has in common with Woody Allen). Yellnikoff also thinks life is basically pointless (he limps from jumping out of a window in a failed suicide attempt), as is religion, relationships and people in general and he rants about this to anyone and everyone, including the audience watching the film (an annoying little plot gimmick that could have been left out of the script).

Yellinikoff meets a naive Mississippi runaway named Melodie St. Ann Celestine who is a couple of decades younger than him (similar to all of the women Woody Allen has been involved with)  and allows her to stay at his apartment. He rages at her and begins to her impressionable young mind to match his world view. His creed when it comes to love, is "whatever works" versus true love conquers all. Ironically, while molding the young girl's mind, Yellinikoff softens his own rigid view. Melodie falls in love with Yellinikoff and he marries her.

I started out not liking the movie. The dialogue began as classic Woody Allen intellectual, neurotic babble. But then when the Melodie character was introduced, something changed. I got drawn into the storyline and really ended up loving the movie. Maybe it was Larry David's personality overcoming Woody Allen's ego. But the film was smart, funny and entertaining. The plot twists were absurd, yet clever. Maybe I'll even give another Woody Allen film a try.

What can I say, Whatever Works works.

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