Friday, July 3, 2009

Whatever Works

Review by Rob McKinnon
(7/3/09) Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 92 min
Writer/Director: Woody Allen
Opens: July 3, at Landmark’s River Oaks

One of my reel pleasures is the yearly release of a new film by Woody Allen. This time, after creating films in England and Spain, Woody has returned to his laughing place, New York City, with his latest offering, “Whatever Works.”

Allen is a master of filmmaking, and has, among his many gifts, a truly phenomenal eye for casting. In “Whatever Works,” the lead is a crotchety, arrogantly-brilliant, misanthrope named Boris Yellnikoff. The part was originally written for the late, genius actor, Zero Mostel. When he passed away, Woody Allen set the script aside. But, though he had felt that no one would be able to fill the hugely-talented shoes of Mr. Mostel, it occurred to him that now there was indeed someone who would be perfect for the role and make it fun to shoot, and marvelous fun to watch. That person is Larry David. If you’re as much of a fan of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as I am, you’ll see the perfection of this casting choice immediately upon viewing this movie. No playing against type here.

There are few if any actors who wouldn’t sell their souls for a chance to play a leading role in a Woody Allen film. But true to his personality, Larry reacted: “I thought Woody had become unhinged,” he says. “I wondered who put this crackpot idea in his head. And, of course, as with anything I’ve ever been offered, I didn’t feel up to the task. Feeling up to the task is not my thing.” Woody says, “Larry kept complaining to me what a mistake I was making by hiring him, telling me what a tiny range he has, how terrible he is, and all that. And then right out of the box, first take all the time, he was just wonderful, a natural actor. And what surprised me was how fine he was in the scenes that didn’t require him to be funny, but required genuine acting. But being funny is sort of built into Larry, he just has it. He doesn’t have to push it, he just has to show up and perform the scenes credibly, without trying to be funny, just trying to be real. When Larry’s real, he’s funny—because he’s funny in life.”

The rest of the cast, as well, is perfect, delightful, funny, and real, and features: Ed Begley, Jr., Pataricia Clarkson, Conleth Hill, Michael McKean, and Evan Rachel Wood. The supporting cast is also perfection. As for the story, I don’t wish to spoil the fun and surprise by revealing anything to you. It’s an hilarious, brilliant, intelligent, engaging, sex-and-laughter-filled romantic comedy as only Woody Allen could create. Great characters, insightfully-funny dialogue, and non-stop pacing. Don’t miss “Whatever Works,” written and directed by Woody Allen and opening in Houston at Landmark’s River Oaks, Friday, July 3rd. It is a pure pleasure and I highly, enthusiastically recommend it. - Rob McKinnon

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