Friday, August 23, 2013

Whatever Works

Written and directed by Woody Allen, Whatever Works tells the story of a frustrated intellectual who leaves his upper-class New York life to enter its Bohemian section where he meets a young Southern girl and her family as he deals with the drawbacks of his new change in life. The film explores a man who befriends a young Southern girl and her family as he unknowingly changes their views on life. Starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr., Henry Cavill, and Michael McKean. Whatever Works is a pretty delightful comedy from Woody Allen.

The film is about this very brilliant but frustrated individual who chooses to live a much simpler life after a breakdown in his marriage where he later meets this young Southern runaway. Reluctantly taking her in, he becomes fascinated by naiveté as they later marry until her mother finds her as she eventually becomes part of the New York City art world. It’s a film where this man’s rants about the world and humanity suddenly seeps into the mind of a young woman as she eventually starts to become an individual of sorts and later has her mother becoming part of a world that is very different from the conservative world of the American South.

Woody Allen’s screenplay is about people coming into their own in a very new environment yet it is largely told by this man named Boris (Larry David) whose cynical view on the world itself has him baffled when he meets this very charming 21-year old girl named Melody (Evan Rachel Wood). Even as he imposes his own ideas about everything to her as she starts to form her own opinions on things though they aren’t strong as his as it would eventually influence her own mother Marietta (Patricia Clarkson) who unexpectedly arrives in an attempt to bring her own. Instead, she is introduced to a few of Boris’ friends and becomes a very different woman in the course of a year. Allen’s script is uneven at times as it often features a lot of rants from Boris who is always breaking the fourth wall down and talks to the audience to give his ideas on things and such where it gets a little old at times.

Allen’s direction has him returning to New York City after a brief period spending time in Europe. While he doesn’t do anything new in terms of compositions, he does manage to create a sense of looseness in the way he directs his actors. Notably as he creates moments where Boris would rant to his friends about everything as he tells the story about his first suicide attempt and then go into his story about how he met Melody. Allen does manage to take his time and do a bit of satire where he sort of makes fun of the New York art world as Marietta becomes this art photography who specializes in nude photography that would baffle her husband John (Ed Begley Jr.) who had left Marietta for her best friend. Though it loses some steam in the third act and the plotting isn’t as strong as it wanted it to be. Allen still manages to create a very engaging yet fun film about a man whose intellect inspires a Southern family to find their way in the world.

Cinematographer Harris Savides does fantastic work with the film‘s cinematography from the vibrant yet sunny look of its daytime exteriors to some more colorful lighting schemes for the scenes at night including some of its interior scenes. Editor Alisa Lepselter does excellent work with the editing as it features a few montages to play up Melody and Marietta‘s respective growths as well some rhythmic cuts to play out the film‘s humor. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Ellen Christiansen and art director Tom Warren, does terrific work with the set pieces from the look of Boris‘ apartment to the art gallery that Marietta would eventually present.

Costume designer Suzy Benzinger does wonderful work with the costumes from the youthful clothes that Melody wears to the more fashionable New York Bohemian clothes that Marietta would wear after her transformation. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound as it is often low-key while it would play to some moments that would move the story forward. The film’s music largely consists of classical and jazz music from artists like Ludwig Van Beethoven, Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, Heinz Kiessling, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, and Red Garland.

The casting by Juliet Taylor, Laura Rosenthal, and Ali Farrell is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some memorable appearances from Michael McKean, Adam Brooks, and Lyle Kanouse as friends of Boris whom he frequently talks to, Christopher Evan Welch as a man John meets late in the film, Carolyn McCormick as Boris’ ex-wife in a scene where Boris has a night terror and tries to kill himself, Jessica Hecht as a woman Boris meets late in the film, Conleth Hill as a philosophy professor Marietta meets, and Olek Krupa as an art gallery agent who also meets and falls for Marietta. Ed Begley Jr. is terrific as Marietta’s husband John who unexpectedly arrives to New York City to find out what his daughter and wife are up to as he’s baffled by their changes. Henry Cavill is very good as a young man that Marietta meets as she tries to set him up with Melody in the hopes that Melody can meet someone who isn’t Boris.

Patricia Clarkson is amazing as Melody’s mother Marietta where Clarkson brings a lot of energy as a woman who starts off as this God-fearing woman from the South that is eager to return her daughter back home only for one of Boris’ friend to discover her gifts as a photography that would change her completely. Evan Rachel Wood is remarkable as Melody as this young Southern girl who runs away to New York City from Mississippi as she becomes Boris’ new wife where she learns to be a woman with some intelligence as Wood has this charm and exuberance to her character that is fun to watch. Larry David is excellent as Boris as a man troubled by the world and is convinced is full of idiots until he’s amazed by this young naïve woman and starts to guide her about the ways of the world as it’s a pretty funny performance from David.

Whatever Works is a pretty good film from Woody Allen thanks to the performances of Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson. While it is flawed as some of David’s rants get a little old while the story is also uneven. It is still a very lively film that explores an intellect meeting those who are beneath him intellectually yet would make an impact on his life and his views on the world. In the end, Whatever Works is a terrific film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra's Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

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