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Whatever Works (2009)

7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 50,287 users   Metascore: 45/100
Reviews: 155 user | 216 critic | 30 from Metacritic.com

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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Title: Whatever Works (2009)

Whatever Works (2009) on IMDb 7.2/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Boris' Friend
...
Boris' Friend
...
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
...
Brockman
...
Lady at Chinese Restaurant
...
...
Perry
Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman ...
Chess Girl (as Willa Cuthrell Tuttleman)
...
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 »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

1 July 2009 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Woody Allen Project  »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£72,678 (UK) (25 June 2010)

Gross:

£203,555 (UK) (2 July 2010)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Mono)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Like Allen's later film "Blue Jasmine," this film takes several cues from Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire. Marietta, a Southern woman visiting the big city, echoes Blanche DuBois in several ways, including being horrified at the apartment Melodie lives in and being coy about her drinking. At least one of her lines ("You are not the gentleman I was expecting") is a direct homage to "Streetcar." See more »

Goofs

When Boris and Melody discuss the female leads in Gone With The Wind, Boris says that Scarlett has green eyes. If you watch Gone With The Wind, you will see that Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) has blue eyes. 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 ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Episode #1.12 (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Buttmeat Boogie
Written by Kent Buchanan (as Kent Bucchanon)
Performed by Kent Buchanan (as Kent Bucchanon)
Courtesy of Extreme Production Music
See more »

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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.


57 of 86 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Creepy male fantasy ruens-2
Glaring grammatical error aalbert
What IS the worst Woody Allen movie (asks a fan) kipconlon-1
This movie is A LOT BETTER than 'Midnight in Paris' lateacher
Was this the worst WOody Allen movie, or what?? ogg77
they simply do not make movies like this anymore hunterk221
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