Whatever Works

A metaphor becomes reality, with mixed results


Larry David and Woody Allen, both titans in the field of awkward comedy, and not the squirm in your seat Rob Schneider shitting himself at a wake variety either. A collaboration between the two seems like a metaphor, something you might use to describe a movie which personifies this sub genre. Those attracted by the notion of Larry David playing his squirming, social ineptitude cards will find something to enjoy here, and those coming for a feelgood romantic comedy will walk away with a mixed bag.

David plays a Nobel prize nominated physicist who comes to the realisation that life is fleeting and that he is surrounded by morons. The monologue he directs at his then wife about the nature of their (faltering) marriage begins to sow the seeds of his (and the film’s)  viewpoint on love, that despite the number of similarities they shared his choice to marry her was entirely based on rational thought, and love should not/cannot be rationalised. He then proceeds to throw himself out of a window, the films first suicide attempt and it’s first hint that this is not a typical romantic piece.

After this we are treated to a hilarious depiction of our protagonist’s current  lifestyle, which involves flinging barbed insults at the children he tutors in chess, long winded and politically incorrect  discussions with fellow aging academics and generally twenty or so minutes of Larry David in a beautiful synthesis of his own comic persona and Allens.

It is at this point that David comes into contact with Evan Rachel Woods character, and the dichotomy between a world weary genius and a beautiful Southern belle bordering on idiocy comes into play. The movie remains fairly grounded at this point , and the relationship blossoms into marriage without becoming unbelievable, and while allowing the impressionable young Melody to accrue and accept David’s misanthropy.

At this point I would like to take an aside to point out that I found the concept of a young runaway, being taken in by a sixty year old man, then developing a relationship with him to be fairly disturbing. The idea of an essentially homeless, naive young girl becoming intimately involved with a much older man providing her shelter is quite off putting, especially when considering Woody Allens own… transgressions into… pedophilia. However, as the characters become more developed this notion becomes less and less prevalent and the entire situation seems more natural (thanks in no small part to the merciful lack of any implication of sex).

At this point I feel the movie begins to go off the rails as we become bombarded by new characters for the remaining running time, who (while on the whole are well acted) seem to have been devised to propagate the movies thesis on love.

In short we are; introduced to Melody’s uptight and heavily devout mother, who becomes a bohemian artist with two boyfriends around 15 minutes after her introduction; an attractive piece of romcom fodder with a sensuous English accent and a beard, who after three short conversations causes Melody to act ludicrously out of character and decide that she is unhappy and needs a divorce and a young male leading man immediately (but not before the obligatory sex scene)

as well as Melody’s … uptight and heavily devout father who after ONE FIVE MINUTE SCENE, has transformed from a small town christian with an NRA membership into a mincing homosexual with a penchant for using his remaining 40 seconds worth of dialogue to describe why this was a completely sensible trajectory for his sexuality.

David then makes his second attempt at suicide, failing and falling on top of the woman of his dreams, possibly the most half assed device any movie could possibly implement. This scene occurs in the closing minutes of the movie, most likely because David is left forlorn and loveless while the rest of the cast frolic in romantic comedy bliss. The entire incident is completely incongruous with the rest of the film, it leaves the impression of pieces being moved clumsily into place for the tidy finale and among a series of outlandish developments this one is still the most egregious.

We are then subjected to an unsatisfying final scene in which all of these characters share a new years celebration together, happily in relationships while David extols the virtues of his whatever works hypothesis, essentially that since life is short you need to find love even if it seems irrational or unconventional.

The movie is enjoyable despite the fact that it steadily unravels from the halfway point and feels that it needs to impose a conventional happy ending onto a very unique and funny film that at it’s best, attempted to break conventional Hugh Grant fare with great humor and an unique world view and at it’s worst, panicked and cobbled together a Ryan Reynolds gets the girl story in microcosm to appease those who like a straightforward message to go out on.


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