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Whatever Works (2009)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Romance | 3 July 2009 (USA)
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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Clifford Lee Dickson ...
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Chess Mother
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Chess Girl (as Willa Cuthrell Tuttleman)
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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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Release Date:

3 July 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Woody Allen Project  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$266,162, 21 June 2009, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$5,306,447, 30 October 2009

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$35,097,815, 12 August 2012
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The role of Boris Yelnikoff was original written for Zero Mostel. After Mostel's death in 1977, Woody Allen set the screenplay aside. However, with a potential actor's strike during 2008-9, Allen chose this old screenplay to be his next film. Furthermore, Mostel and Larry David both played the role of Max Bialistock: Mostel in The Producers (1967) and David in the play within a show representing the main story arc from Season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000). See more »

Goofs

Melody says she is from Mississippi and that her parents moved there from Louisiana. She also refers to living in Plaquemines County. There is no Plaquemines County is Mississippi. In Louisiana, where there are parishes instead of counties, there is a Plaquemines Parish. 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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Soundtracks

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Courtesy of Chesky Records & Manhattan Production Music
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User Reviews

It works for me.
4 July 2009 | by See all my reviews

"Sometimes a cliché is finally the best way to make one's point." Boris (Larry David)

Woody Allen's witty movies may seem clichéd (love does indeed conquer all in most of his romcoms), but they do make a humanistic point couched in Allen's pessimism and nerdiness. With Larry David playing another Allen alter ego, Boris, a self-proclaimed genius, this misanthrope in Whatever Works is the best characterization of Allen in his recent movies. The movie works for me as the smartest, most enjoyable of this summer with a message countering Allen and his alter ego's world-weariness.

It doesn't take long to look at David's work co-creating Seinfeld and starring in his own Curb Your Enthusiasm to see that this world-weary worry wart is a good choice to play an Allen-like New York Jewish intellectual. Unfortunately his lack of real acting talent is a hindrance, especially when he slips into shouting many of his lines. Yet when David plays himself more than the stuttering Allen, he becomes relaxed and believable. When David speaks to the audience several times, the sincerity is powerful.

Allen wanted Zero Mostel to play this part; his death in 1977 put the script in mothballs for decades. As an accomplished Broadway and film actor, Mostel underscores David's limited acting range.

The conceit of Whatever Works is that older Boris in his 60's hooks up with twenty-year-old Southern Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood) despite his genius mind rejecting the whole affair as trite but his heart going with "whatever works." Throughout, Allen juxtaposes the Southern innocence with Northern experience creating a situation where NYC actually transforms the Southerners into urban sybarites, no better exemplified than the transformation of Melodie's mom (Patricia Clarkson) from bible thumper to artist humper with avant garde photos and multiple lovers. Even her ex-husband, John (Ed Begley, Jr.), has a NYC epiphany of the sexual kind.

Although Allen has his characters looking for love with results that will remind you of his Everyone Says I Love You, the sweetness is replaced with a philosophy that encourages searching out whatever works because of the transitory nature of love and life.

The mixture of love and cynicism allows deep appreciation of irony and the transformative nature of experience.


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