Whatever Works (2009) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 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.

  • In New York, the bitter and grumpy Professor of Quantum Mechanics in Columbia University Boris Yellnikoff is a snobbish and pretentious intellectual that claims to be a genius in String Theory and that the world is completely wrong. During an existential crisis, Boris ends his marriage with Jessica and jumps through the window to commit suicide. However the canopy saves his life and Boris becomes limp and quits his job in Columbia. He moves to an old apartment downtown and gives chess classes to children to make some money. When the simpleminded religious Mississippi runaway Melodie Saint Ann Celestine asks for food to him, he temporarily lodges the girl in his apartment. Along the days, the atheist Boris shapes Melodie to his thoughts and the girl, impressed with his pretentious geniality, fits his world. Despite their difference of ages, they marry each other and have a routine life. However, the world of Boris changes when out of the blue Melodie's mother Marietta arrives in their apartment.

  • Sexagenarian Boris Yelnikoff is an academic genius, a former Columbia University professor in quantum mechanics. He also has total contempt for the human race, he believing the species in general comprised of self-serving morons, himself included, although he being able to see the big picture better than most. As such, he had tried to commit suicide in the past, that failed attempt which has now left him with a limp. He believes that life is a series of chances, and whatever happens, happens. Such was the problem with marriage to his college sweetheart Jessica, where they were perfect for each other on paper, but not in real life. Boris has largely retreated from the world, he having a small, close knit group of friends with whom he can kvetch, while he teaches chess, primarily to adolescents, again a task for which he has total contempt. Into his life comes Melody St. Ann Celestine, a twenty-one year old runaway from Eden, Mississippi. Melody is uneducated and simpleminded, the product of Christian fundamentalist parents, Marietta and John Celestine. It is that stifling family life from which she is running. Individually, Marietta and John eventually come looking for their daughter and peripherally through Melody also enter Boris' life. While Boris and New York do have some influence on Melody, Marietta and John, Melody in particular may have some influence on Boris, bringing him an inch closer to rejoining the human race.

  • 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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