Whatever Works

Despite misgivings, I ended up getting a mild kick out of this latest Woody Allen movie. I expected another version of a dirty old man's wet dream (well, to be honest, it DID start out that way), but the dialogue was so acerbic and the performances were so silly and entertaining that we left the theater with a smile.

Allen uses an amusing device: His central character, a nihilist curmud- geon, played by Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") drops the fourth wall and talks directly to us in the audience. He comments on our pop- corn, our vacuous smiles, our empty lives, and the hopelessness of it all. Others in the scene are bewildered and peer around him trying to see who he's talking to. This happens just often enough to be amusing. It could easily have been overworked.

Evan Rachel Wood ("The Wrestler") is the sweet young thang from the South who talks her way into his life, even going so far as to marry him. All of the objections we in the audience feel about this May/December pairing, are anticipated and voiced by our resident grouch. Our heroine is sunny, upbeat and completely outclassed by his intellect when he grouses about how awful everything is...but no matter, she's happy anyway.

Patricia Clarkson ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") is Momma, come to fetch her baby back home, only to be blindsided by New York City and its hedonistic delights.

This screenplay was originally written for Zero Mostel and was set aside upon his death in 1977. It took a potential actors' strike a couple of years ago to prompt Allen to take it down from the shelf, dust it off and update it.