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Whatever Works (2009)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Romance | 3 July 2009 (USA)
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A middle-aged, misanthropic divorcée from New York City surprisingly enters a fulfilling, Pygmalion-type relationship with a much younger, unsophisticated Southern girl.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Boris' Friend
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Boris' Friend
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Boris' Friend
Clifford Lee Dickson ...
Boy on Street
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Boy's Mother
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Jessica
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Chess Mother
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...
...
Lady at Chinese Restaurant
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...
Chess Girl (as Willa Cuthrell Tuttleman)
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Perry's Friend
...
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Storyline

Attempting to impress his ideologies on religion, relationships, and the randomness (and worthlessness) of existence, lifelong New York resident Boris Yellnikoff rants to anyone who will listen, including the audience. But when he begrudgingly allows naive Mississippi runaway Melodie St. Ann Celestine to live in his apartment, his reclusive rages give way to an unlikely friendship and Boris begins to mold the impressionable young girl's worldly views to match his own. When it comes to love, "whatever works" is his motto, but his already perplexed life complicates itself further when Melodie's parents eventually track her down. Written by The Massie Twins

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, brief nude images and thematic material | See all certifications »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

3 July 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Woody Allen Project  »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$266,162 (USA) (19 June 2009)

Gross:

$5,306,447 (USA) (30 October 2009)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Mono)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The house where Boris lives with his first wife is the same one in "Match point", Jonathan Ryes Mayers and Emily Mortimer live when they get married. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where Randy bumps into Melodie at the clothing store, she has pink nail polish. In the next scene at the boat, she does not. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Boris Yellnikoff: That's not what I'm saying, imbecile. You guys completely misrepresent my ideas, why would I even want to talk with those idiots.
Boris' Friend: Just calm down.
Boris' Friend: That's not true, Boris.
Boris Yellnikoff: No, don't tell me to calm down, I am calm. Just stop.
Boris' Friend: Don't jump on us just because we don't understand what you're saying.
Boris Yellnikoff: I didn't jump on you. It's not the idea behind Christianity I'm faulting, or Judaism, or any religion. It's the professionals who've made it into corporate business. There's big money in the ...
[...]
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Connections

References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Auld Lang Syne
(from the motion picture Radio Days (1987))
Arranged by Dick Hyman
Performed by Dick Hyman & His Orchestra
Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Music Inc.
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User Reviews

 
Bleakly funny
25 July 2009 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

When Woody Allen's films are released in the UK I usually blink and miss them. I happened to be in France this week so I was able to catch Whatever Works which is having its first general release in that most Woody-friendly of countries.

In Whatever Works, Larry David plays Boris Yellnikoff, Woody Allen's most unsympathetic character yet. He is even bleaker than Harry Block in Deconstructing Harry, this is despite the fact that the screenplay was apparently written in 1977 during what some people refer to as Woody's funny period. Woody usually gets away with his portrayals of nihilistic characters because of his diffident manner. Larry David, on the other hand, plays what is recognizably an Allen character but in a very aggressive manner, direct to camera. I do sympathise with Allen's world view that life is meaningless, arbitrary, painful and followed by oblivion, but, even for a sceptic like me, David's delivery is a little too blunt. To make matters worse, he is an arrogant misanthrope who regards himself as a genius and everyone else as inch-worms and cretins. He even verbally and physically abuses the small children who he is supposed to be coaching in chess.

By chance, Boris shacks up with a naïve Mississipean runaway, Melodie, charmingly played by Evan Rachel Wood. In one of many implausible plot devices she just turns up on Boris's doorstep and he takes her in. Things start to look unpleasantly like an old man's fantasy with the 60-something Boris and the 20-something Melodie although, fortunately, Allen spares us the bedroom details. We are in familiar Allen territory here with an older man having a Svengali-like influence on a younger woman. Then, suddenly, in the film's best scene, Melodie shows that she has completely adapted Boris's attitudes and beliefs, expressing contempt for her young friends' optimism and cheerfulness.

Things improve greatly in the second half of the film as the action becomes more farcical. First Melodie's mother arrives on their doorstep, closely followed by her father. Both are rapidly seduced by New York life and renounce their Southern fundamentalism for exciting new lifestyles and sexual orientations. Melodie's mother, Marietta, mischievously played by Patricia Clarkson, becomes a famous photographer on the strength of some snaps she has taken with a cheap camera. The plotting is quite perfunctory here but it is so funny that the viewer is carried along with the fantasy. And, of course, it is a fantasy that the vast majority of Americans who believe in Heaven and Hell can just have Allen's doctrine of despair explained to them and reject their value systems instantly.

The film ends on a note of euphoria and one can see that the whole thing is a parable. All the characters seize their one bit of happiness, whatever works for them in a naughty world. I liked the way the mood of the film flips: it starts in despair but you leave the cinema with a broad smile and a warm glow.


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