"Whatever Works" Works

While I recognize the audacity and quality of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I never really enjoyed the show and I never warmed up to Larry David. I mean, I "get it," but it's just not something I want to watch.

So I approached Woody Allen's Whatever Works, which stars Larry David as a very grumpy old man, with great trepidation, especially because the trailer is pretty awful. Even as a huge Woody Allen fan (and staunch apologist), I got a sinking feeling as opening weekend neared.

Much to my pleasant surprise, Whatever Works—which is about a misanthrope who falls into a marriage—is a real treat. While it may not by one of the best Woody Allen films in, say, the last dozen years (I'll leave that designation to Vicky Christina Barcelona and Match Point), it probably is his most consistently funny, thanks to Larry David's aggressive and spirited performance.

Critics have derided the fact that the script for Whatever Works is about 30 years old, something that Woody wrote during his Annie Hall/Manhattan period and threw in a bottom drawer somewhere. But the movie manages to come across as relevant (Woody updates some of the references) and refreshing (even today, no one tackles mortality and the meaning of life as comically as Woody does). Sure, he's rehashing old themes, but that's what artists do. (No one ever hammered Alfred Hitchcock for continually exploring "innocent man" storylines or Martin Scorsese for revisiting violence.)

In the past, I've found Woody Allen's cinematic surrogates to be amusing at best (Jason Biggs in Anything Else, Will Farrell in Melinda and Melinda, Scarlett Johansson in Scoop) and jaw-droppingly bizarre at worst (Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity). Casting Larry David is a stroke of genius because, here, he's not trying to imitate Woody—he's being his usual cranky self. And it works wonders in ways that even Woody Allen himself couldn't quite pull off in Deconstructing Harry. (Woody? Mean? I don't buy it.)

Finally, for those of you still bristle at the whole older-man/way-younger-woman scenarios that Woody Allen continues to dream up, get over it. He's been doing it since 1979 (starting with Manhattan). It was fine the first 86 times you complained about it. And if you keep on complaining, you'll totally miss a completely winning, effervescent, and hilarious performance by Evan Rachel Wood.

Anyway, since I hated the trailer, I won't post that, but I will post Larry David's funny appearance on the Conan O'Brien show. I'm now a believer, Curb fans. Watch:


  1. I loved Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And while I'd be squeamish about dating and old guy (or any guy, actually), I'm fine if other people/fictional characters do. But I did do a double-take when I saw Evan Rachel Wood's name. I'll probably see the movie and alternate between marveling "She was born in 1987!" and cracking up.

  2. Larry David should be nowhere near the insane hotness that is Evan Rachel Wood. *burns with envy*

  3. Larry should be a source of inspiration!