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Whatever Works


Stars: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Henry Cavill, Ed Begley Jr, Patricia Clarkson, Michael McKean, Jessica Hecht, Christopher Evan Welch

Director: Woody Allen

...and, despite the usual excess of talk in an Allen picture, this one certainly does work, making it the director's most engaging comedy in ages. It's his cheeriest, too, despite the leading character (David) being a 60something miserabilist misanthrope, a 'quantum mechanics genius' whose constant rails against civilization and his own contempt for anyone beneath his high IQ, hide a pretty basic loneliness since his wife walked out on the old curmudgeon years before.

His consequent suicide attempt failed when he landed on the canopy of a shop, though he now walks with a limp, as he harangues his friends and even us, the audience, with his grievances.

Into his life comes homeless southern-states airhead Celestine (Wood), to whom he reluctantly gives food, then lodgings. Despite his constant insults, she maintains a cheerful disposition, nearly killing him with her crayfish gumbo, but sitting up nights with him while he's having panic attacks.

Reader, she marries him; and all goes well for a year or so until her mother (Clarkson) turns up, swiftly turning from her Legally-Blonde type into a Bohemian photographer and seeking out a 'more suitable' beau for Melody.

'Would you rather she married the guy back home who caught the biggest catfish in the world?' she's asked. Replies Mom: 'I'd rather she married the catfish.'

David, in the surrogate Allen role, is splendidly droll and Wood fresher and more attractive than in previous parts. The film's rhythm takes a bit of getting used to, but, sprinkled with a few near-vintage Allen aphorisms, it's mostly over-easy fun.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
92 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Jun 2010