Whatever Works: Seinfeld Meets Annie Hall

28 Apr

Any movie that opens with a Marx Brothers song can’t be half bad. The movie opens Groucho Marx singing “Hello, I must be going”, from Animal Crackers,  and that is what Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) does for slightly over an hour and a half, in Whatever Works. Written and directed by Woody Allen, David is perfect as the  self proclaimed genius, who was almost nominated for the noble prize in physics.

Yellnikoff is the ideal meld of Allen’s quirky humor with David’s obsession with warped social commentary. He charges through life with an infinite reservoir of  misanthropic cynicism, which he’ll lecture about to anyone who enters into his narcissistic orbit.  As is the fate of Melody St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), a runaway from a devoutly Christian southern family.

Melody came to New York with a life with youthful exuberance, that Yellnikoff is dead set to beat out of her. Most of the film is spent with Melody dancing around Yellnikoff like a well manicured poodle bothering a old man.  The clear contrast is funny but turns Roman Polanski as Melody forms a bizzare crush, repeating Yellnikoff’s philosophical rants to her friends and failed boyfriends.

What forms is a strange mismatched relationship, that turns to marriage. It’s all going swimmingly until Melody’s mother, Marietta played perfectly by Patricia Clarkson, comes looking for her in New York. But as that complication begins to settle John, Melody’s father (Ed Begley Jr.), shows up looking for Marietta and the farce continues. But with each arising problem comes a solution and the characters find whatever works for them.

David is the ideal Yellnikoff with a zeal for lengthy wordy diatribes. It’s almost as if Allen based the character off of David, although you get the feeling that this film is more about Allen’s life philosophies then David’s comedic persona. Allen fans will be satisfied. As will David’s proud Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm fanclub. But so will the average movie goer.


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