Charming but “nothingy” is the best way to describe Whatever Works. It’s perfectly watchable and its charm pulls you in from the very first scene, with Larry David talking, cynically, towards the camera, breaking the fourth wall in great Woody Allen style.
In fact, that was the biggest sticking point for me. I love Curb Your Enthusiasm and though I was aware that this wasn’t the film version of that tv show, the trailer for the film did give the impression that we would be getting Larry David in all his grouchy, set-in-his-ways glory.
Instead, we seemed to get Larry David doing a Woody Allen impression. It felt very clear from the beginning, especially with David talking directly to the camera, that this was intended for Woody Allen to play the role of Boris but he probably deemed himself too old to carry the role properly. It’s a small gripe though because the film is so charming and because Larry David does such a good job of carrying the role.
The casting is very good. Evan Rachel Wood plays off Larry David very well and again, her story and character is sweet and likable enough to keep your interest. There are also notable appearances by a very English Henry Cavill and a brilliantly over-the-top Patricia Clarkson.
The story has enough going on to keep it from getting stale and bogged down but it’s not the cleverest of films and is hardly stretching Woody Allen’s writing talents. If nothing else, it seems to hark back to my theory of Boris being intended for the director to play, because above anything else, the film is a lot of fun.
Larry David gets to say some very funny, inappropriate but Curb-esque views on life that raise a laugh and Rachel Wood’s ditsy and worldly naive Melody gets some fantastic lines and moments of her own too. Once the film is over though, you get the shallow feeling that it didn’t really go anywhere. The characters didn’t seem to progress all that much and it felt much more like a series of interconnected events than any real story or thread.
This isn’t a bad thing, some films are perfect for that exact reason, but that should be the intention from the beginning. What we get is a decent Woody Allen film, with some very good performances by some very able actors that will entertain but will struggle to stay with you afterwards like classic Allen always does. The story lacks any bite or punch and needs just a little bit more to it.
Overall, a decent, watchable and quite entertaining film. Its funny in places, thoroughly charming and moments will appeal to any Curb fan, getting to see classic, cynical Larry David. The story is probably the weakest aspect of the film and its hard not to feel slightly cheated when the story doesn’t really go anywhere.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)