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Whatever Works (2009)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Romance | 3 July 2009 (USA)
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2:17 | Trailer
A middle-aged, misanthropic divorcée from New York City surprisingly enters a fulfilling, Pygmalion-type relationship with a much younger, unsophisticated Southern girl.

Director:

Woody Allen

Writer:

Woody Allen
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Larry David ... Boris
Adam Brooks ... Boris' Friend
Lyle Kanouse ... Boris' Friend
Michael McKean ... Boris' Friend
Clifford Lee Dickson Clifford Lee Dickson ... Boy on Street
Yolonda Ross ... Boy's Mother
Carolyn McCormick ... Jessica
Samantha Bee ... Chess Mother
Evan Rachel Wood ... Melody Celestine
Conleth Hill ... Brockman
Marcia DeBonis ... Lady at Chinese Restaurant
John Gallagher Jr. ... Perry
Willa Cuthrell ... Chess Girl (as Willa Cuthrell Tuttleman)
Nicole Patrick ... Perry's Friend
Patricia Clarkson ... Marietta
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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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 July 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Untitled Woody Allen Project See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$266,162, 21 June 2009

Gross USA:

$5,306,706

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$35,097,815
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First of two Woody Allen films to feature a two word alliterated title. Moreover, both films actually featuring the same first letter in each title word, that being "W". The two films are Whatever Works (2009) and Wonder Wheel (2017), both made and first released about eight years apart. 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

Featured in The 81st Annual Academy Awards (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
Refreshingly original
4 July 2009 | by Craig_McPhersonSee all my reviews

If ever a movie could be described as an allegorical rendition of a director's life, Whatever Works just might top the list.

Marking Woody Allen's return to his native New York City after a four picture hiatus in Europe, the movie tells the story of Boris Yellnikoff, played by Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), the only actor working in Hollywood today who most closely approximates Allen himself in look, mannerisms, and philosophical outlook. Afflicted by numerous neuroses, Boris has become the ultimate pessimist, seeing life as one long water slide ride into an eventual cesspool. So bleak is his outlook that he becomes convinced that suicide is the only option, but even that cheap out fails him.

Fed up with the world, Boris turns his back on much that society has to offer, instead spending his days teaching chess to kids while publicly humiliating them at every opportunity. Yes, Boris isn't a happy camper, and takes pride in it. The fact that he's managed to maintain a core of four friends is a miracle in and of itself.

Then one day fate causes him to cross paths with Melodie St. Ann Celestine (played by the delightful Evan Rachel Wood), a country bumpkin runaway from the backwoods of Louisiana. She is Jethro Bodine to Yellnikoff's Einstein. A complete intellectual and generational opposite. Love at first sight it isn't, but given the axiom that opposites attract, Boris soon finds himself falling for the much younger siren (cue the Allen parallels).

While some critics have complained that much of the dialog comes across as stilted and unnatural (which it does), Whatever Works unravels more like a stage play than real life, which, I think, is how Allen meant it. As writer and director, he has lots to say here and refuses to allow such trivialities as natural delivery stand in the way. This isn't to say that the performances are wooden, but rather that nobody talks like Yelnikoff in real life, and I'm good with that. What's important here are the ideas, constructs and situations that Allen infuses in his characters.

Interestingly, while much of the movie's theme focuses on the serendipity of life, and thumbs its nose at the divine, the film can easily be viewed from both the atheistic and spiritual viewpoint, particularly given how events unfold in a seemingly manipulated manner.

While not Allen's finest work, Whatever Works will appeal to those who enjoy a light romantic comedy, particularly one that provokes a few sparks from our grey matter, while delivering its laughs.


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