Every time I watch a movie now, I try to pick out the most interesting image to post later on. I do that now. For some reason, this one kinda stuck out. Oh sure, I coulda picked the one where he breaks the glass window, but that's SO cliché. The point being, fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm will probably not be as smitten with Woody Allen's Whatever Works. A little less than, say, Larry David's love letter to Friends, 1998's Sour Grapes. But it took Larry 20 years to play the lead in one of Woody's pics; I'd give him some notes on the script for the next one. It should be a credit to ol' L.D. that he nails Woody's affectations so well, yet somehow it's not. Still, I'm going to go ahead and propose it; just kinda float the suggestion out there... Oscar nomination time? Best Lead Actor? He is the lead in this, after all! I doubt that Laurie will be as forthcoming this time, but who knows. Anyway... ¶ For a long-time student of Woody's recurring themes like me and my close friends, patterns (begin to) emerge. They said it was a little bit like Hannah and Her Sisters, but mostly like Annie Hall and especially Manhattan: older man takes up with a teenage girl, maybe a little older. We didn't realize that we'd keep seeing these movies reincarnated over and over... but SCTV knew!!
Anyway, I'd be remiss and frankly derelict in my reviewing duties if I didn't mention the plot. As with most movies, Woody or otherwise, we have the opening, establishing scenario, and then the scenario that will engulf the whole rest of the movie. In this case, Boris Yellnikoff (David) leaves his wife by jumping out the window of their extra-fancy New York apartment, and ends up limping his way around chess boards in the park and to the occasional band rehearsal... kinda like Woody Allen himself! For some reason I thought of Chigurh in NCFOM in his limping phase, but that's just me, I suppose. Anyway, Badinoff... I mean Yellnikoff becomes Super-Smart-but-Can't-Fly Curmudgeon Man, able to play chess in 20 moves or less, or your game's free. And everyone but him are but mere inchworms and... something else. Amoebas, maybe. Leptons, maybe. If I've learned anything about movie nerds, I and plenty others learned from that old show Dexter's Laboratory: being a nerd is more about attitude than about actual smarts. Oh, I bet Dainel Goleman and all his people got this guy's number, I betcha!
And so, Super-Smart-but-Can't-Fly Curmudgeon Man's life is totally perfect the way it is. When suddenly... fate intervenes, dropping off a lovely Southern orphan at the doorstep of his new, two-down run-down apartment. One couldn't help but recall Slaughterhouse Five and the relationship that Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack end up having... maybe not. Okay, I said ONE couldn't! So I'm just the one... where was I? Anyway, she's as naive as can be, for those of you who underestimate the power of Southern charm. But she slowly learns to see things through Yellnikoff's jaded eyes.
Let's face it, Woody's working harder here than he has to. He's gotta create this girl's backstory, but surely cribbing from Annie Hall et al. helped out a bit. And even though the characters decry clichés, they still fall back on them, and even though the universe is all chaos, all the characters that end up being in the movie end up pairing off rather neatly and tidily, making a strong case for enthalpy! ...(checking Wikipedia) I'm sorry, I guess that's neguentropy instead. As the 4-named Southern belle tells our curmudgeon Boris, his bark really is worse than his bite. Oh sure, he makes a great case against sexual intercourse, worthy of Kevin Smith, but I find it hard to believe he's totally given up on the idea. (re: Deconstructing Harry)
I guess that's about it. Henry Cavill plays the love interest competing for Evan Rachel Wood's affection. He's either the new Peter Gallagher or the new Mel Gibson; now, I'm certainly not a good judge of these kinds of things, but he seemed a little shy of the center of the Male Heart-throb Meter. Charming, but kinda creepy. Evan Rachel Wood does what she can in lieu of Scarlett Johansson. Cinematography by Gus Van Sant's usual lensman Harris Savides, and even HE was wondering, man! Who'd I piss off to get this job?
-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan