In a variation on his “Curb Your Enthusiasm” curmudgeon, Larry David upsets and insults nearly everyone in his path in Woody Allen’s first New York-set comedy in years.
On the way to reviewing “Whatever Works,” I came across this letter to a girlie magazine, and I found its similarities to Woody Allen’s latest script remarkable:
“My name is Boris Yellnikoff and I’m a divorced 61-year-old Columbia physicist living in the Chinatown section of Manhattan. I hadn’t had much experience with sex of late, probably because I’m such a miserable misanthrope. I also dress like an unmade bed and fail at just about everything I do, whether I’m up for a Nobel Prize or attempting suicide.
“So imagine my surprise when after a day of teaching cretin rugrats how to play chess I return home to find this crazy chick from Mississippi standing on the doorstep of my rundown brownstone.
“I would later learn that her name was Melody and boy was she hot. Her hair was blond, her legs long and she couldn’t have been a day over 19. My friends – yes, I have friends, granted only a few, but friends just the same – said she reminded them a lot of Evan Rachel Wood. But those same guys also say I look just like Larry David, that bald, schlubby dude on TV who created ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’
“Anyway, Melody tells me she’s a runaway needing a place to stay and asks if she can shack up with me. What was I gonna say, ‘No’? So, we go inside, where she proceeds to slink around the place in her little cheerleader jacket looking all sexy and such. She was even immune to my constant insults about her embarrassing lack of intelligence. Heck, she even believed I used to play for the New York Yankees – despite my pronounced limp, a reminder of one of my failed suicides.
“No sooner do I tell her she’s a raving idiot for the 10th or 11th time, when she announces she wants to shack up with me for a few weeks. At first I was dumbfounded. Things like this don’t happen to me, Boris Yellnikoff. They only happen in a Woody Allen movie. You know, old man, young girl.
“At first I kept my distance, but then Melody tells me she’s developed a crush on me. And after a few weeks of having her curl up next to me on the couch to watch Fred Astaire movies in nothing but her underwear, my resistance was growing weak. And the next thing I know, we’re married and I’m suddenly popping Viagra like A-Rod pops steroids.
“Everything was perfect. I was even learning to smile. Then, it happened: Melody’s estranged parents, a couple of hicks from the sticks, show up at my door one after the other. Mom was something straight out of Tennessee Williams, controlling and judgmental. But she was also very attractive; something along the lines of a Patricia Clarkson. Dad, who strongly resembles Ed Begley Jr., was even nuttier, a fire-and-brimstone type, who felt an intense passion toward God, Republicans and men, especially the tight end on his college football team.
“To say they weren’t happy with their daughter’s choice in a husband is a vast understatement. They weren’t even amused by my tired one-liners about God, Jews and Southern gothic mores. But after a few days of experiencing all the sights, sounds and sexual perversions New York has to offer, they were what you might call waylaid.
“Unfortunately, so was their daughter, only it wasn’t me that was meeting her needs, it was the handsome young actor Melody’s spiteful mother practically forced upon her. What could Melody possibly see in some wavy-haired hunk, when she already had me, Boris Yellnikoff, waiting for her at home?
“Not to worry. Despite my immediate heartbreak, it turns out this is one of those stories in which all’s well that ends well; a built-in happy ending like you see in a really bad movie.
“Even I, Boris Yellnikoff, finally found what he was looking for – and I’m not talking about bedding a 19-year-old babe, although that was definitely one hell of a middle-aged fantasy come true. No, I’m talking about living the quintessential New York story, the kind like Woody Allen used to make back in the 1970s and continues to make despite the tiredness of his never-changing schtick.
“But when you’re a horny old man with a stale sense of humor you try to get by with what you can. You know, whatever works. Hey, that could be ...
WHATEVER WORKS (PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, brief nude images and thematic material.) Cast includes Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr. Written and directed by Woody Allen. 2 stars out of 4.