Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Whatever Works" Doesn't

[owing to other commitments, posts have been sparse lately, but we will attempt to get back on track.]

We recently watched the DVD of Woody Allen's 2009 film Whatever Works, starring Curb Your Enthusiasm star/creator Larry David. Curb has been a great show, so if the HBO series is considered a day job, David should keep it. David's embarrassing attempt to channel the neurotic Allen persona just appears as if he is reading lines without any real conviction. And what's with those shorts?

It's not just David's performance as the curmudgeon in chief, however, that is the issue; it is really the over-politicized and (if we can use this term) mean-spirited script itself, which apparently was written many years ago, but recently dusted off.

David, in a part that Allen likely would have played himself in his slightly younger days, is a repulsive brainiac professor who unbelievably hooks up with a beautiful young woman from Mississippi (Evan Rachel Wood). Her equally "unenlightened" parents arrive on the scene later in the film.

The main theme of the cliche-ridden film seems to be that conservative hicks from the south can only find true happiness if they give up their faith, family, and their guns and pursue a libertine/bohemian lifestyle ("whatever works") in New York City. While the the movie has a few (very few) funny lines, it's a poor substitute for Allen's classic comedies such as Annie Hall, Broadway Danny Rose, and Radio Days that were funny, touching, generally non-political, and sentimental all at the same time.

Stereotyping/demonizing people from the south may have been considered edgy in the 60s or 70s, but it's just comes across as oh so lame now. By the way, what about the millions of people who are happy in a Christian lifestyle; isn't that also a component of whatever works, too? Moreover, what about all so-called right wingers, many from the south, who served in the military and/or law enforcement to preserve the First Amendment freedoms that have allowed Allen to pursue a long career in the arts?

In earlier sequences in the movie, the script allows the red state folks to refute the Allen's/David's snobbery, so there could be an argument made that Allen is mocking both the phony New York intellectual and the ignorant red state hick. Based on the Allen's left-wing political pronouncements in many interviews, such as recently advocating an Obama dictatorship of all things, however, this seems unlikely.

BigHollywood.com's JohnNolte sums it up well:
Allen’s writing is shockingly lazy. The dialogue plays like something from a high school play with every on-the-nose scene stiffly performed as if over-rehearsed. The characters are worse; paper thin. Other than Rachel Wood, who summons more depth than the script deserves, the usually terrific Clarkson and Begley Jr. [parents] seem satisfied playing caricatures, which should come as no surprise. Hollywood bigots, never shy about granting terrorists, Nazis, rapists and child molesters some level of depth and dimension, refuse anything of the kind for us Wal-Mart shopping, Jesus-lovers.

No comments:

Post a Comment