Whatever Works

Woody Allen’s latest, starring Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, is his first in New York since the unjustly maligned Anything Else in 2003—and one of his best since 1998’s Celebrity. David plays Boris Yelnikoff, a crotchety old man who was once an eminent physics professor at Columbia nominated for a Nobel Prize for his work on string theory. His outlook on life is about as bleak as it gets: we’re all minute particles in an ever-expanding universe eking out a meaningless existence, drifting away from one another and hurtling toward death faster than we can conceive. He’s imposed upon by a runaway from the deep south, the ridiculously-named Melodie St. Ann Celestine (an excellent Evan Rachel Wood) and lets her stay in his apartment. Her mother and father (Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr., also both excellent) come to take her back home, only to find she’s married the most chronic hypochondriac neurotic chess tutor in New York. Written in the ’70s, the film has much of the feel of Allen’s other work from that period, particularly Annie Hall and Alvy Singer’s ‘eggs’ speech—mirrored here in the protagonist’s beautifully-rendered life philosophy delivered at the end of the film: “Whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide—every temporary measure of grace; whatever works.”

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