Whatever Works


Woody Allen dusts off but doesn’t sufficiently fumigate a romantic comedy of misanthropy he conceived during the era of Annie Hall, and casts Larry David in a role once intended for Zero Mostel. Well, now we know what doesn’t work. David’s obviously much better off as a surrogate for himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm than for the Allen of yore; yet here he is as a condescending New York curmudgeon who, while only barely abiding the general misery of human existence, becomes involved with a much younger, much sunnier Southern runaway, played by Evan Rachel Wood. Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr. play her parents, and the filmmaker gives them all some business, but that’s different from giving them characterizations and direction. More to the point is that even David’s choicest zingers suffer from an overall wrongness of timing. After Allen’s recent three-movie stint in London, it’s tempting to wonder: Would it have been better or worse if he’d tried to retool Whatever Works for Ricky Gervais instead?

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