Whatever Woody Allen is taking these days, it is working. The prolific writer-director seemed to have lost his touch as the 21st Century dawned, with a series of forgettable films including “Hollywood Ending,” “Anything Else,” and “Melinda and Melinda.” It was like he had the dreaded old-man syndrome that seems to hit many comic geniuses as they age, as they seemed drained out of the witty spark that made them famous in the first place.
Even “Match Point,” which garnered the three-time Oscar winner (Allen has had 21 nominations over his long career) his only Academy Award nomination in the 2000’s, is really a rehash of his classic “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” not exactly something new and different. But then came the quirky and delightful “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which also won Penelope Cruz a much-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and it seemed that Woody Allen was truly back in the game, with a slightly crazy, very funny film that just gets better on repeated viewings.
He’s followed that triumph up with “Whatever Works,” which is an even better film, one that hearkens back to his very best (think “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Bullets Over Broadway”). Allen, who has not acted in one of his films since 2006, enlists “Curb Your Enthusiasm” curmudgeon Larry David to take the leading role, to play curmudgeon and scientific genius Boris Yellnikoff, a quintessential New Yorker who hates everything and everyone.
That is, until youngster Melodie St. Ann Celestine stumbles into his life. An adorable little thing from Louisiana who has run away from home and is down on her luck, Melodie – played to perfection by Evan Rachel Wood, who might just get her own Oscar for this performance – convinces Boris to let her move in for a few days.
Those days stretch out, and eventually her very-Southern parents (Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr.) turn up looking for her, an incredibly handsome Brit (Henry Cavill) starts wooing her, and hilarity ensues. Seriously. This is the funniest stuff Woody Allen has written in years; comical yet layered with real-life themes of following your heart, ignoring the naysayers, and finding the way to live a life you love.
As for the title, “Whatever Works” means just that: do whatever works to make your life worth living. One thing that will help is going to see this comedy that puts Woody Allen back at the top of his game.
Studio/Official Site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/whateverworks/