Thursday, February 05, 2009

We Can't Wait #18 Whatever Works

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David, Patty Clarkson and Kristen Johnston
Synopsis Aging New York City man begins romance with a much younger (what a surprise!) southern gal and has wacky encounters with her family.
Brought to you by Sony Pictures Classics
Expected Release Date Summer

Fox: I have a Woody Allen blind spot. Meaning, the man could put out crap for the rest of his life, and I would still hold out hope that the next time around would produce one of his good ones. I'm also not one to jump all over Allen's post-80s output. Not at all. I quite like many of the films he made in the last twenty years. However, personally, I can do without any more European Scarlett Johannson jaunts.

I have high expectations for Whatever Works because it has a unique comic supporting cast in Ed Begley Jr. and Kristen Johnston. And... oh yeah... he's FINALLY WORKING WITH LARRY DAVID! It might be great, but it could just as well go all wrong. Woody Allen doing southern caricature humor? Oy. Yeah, it could go very wrong.

I share your blind spot. (Speaking of blind -- why wasn't that gag funnier in Hollywood Ending? It had such potential) But I don't share the enthusiasm for Larry David. I just hope he's not the Woody proxy. I don't think that ever quite works unless it's minus the proxy part. I prefer the pictures without an obvious Woody Allen role -- like Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Match Point. I wanted to kill Kenneth Branagh when he was trying to "do" Woody in Celebrity.

And I'm glad ScarJo was tossed aside for this one though I wonder how Evan Rachel Wood will fare in Woody's universe -- it's so different than the one she usually inhabits onscreen... or the one we all live in come to think of it.

JA: This one didn't make my short-list because my blind-spot for Woody's films shuts out the films entirely until they suddenly appear at the local indie multiplex and somebody suggests we see that new Woody picture and I say 'what new Woody picture?'... you get the gist. I had heard he was working with Larry David, but this "wacky southern" angle is new to me and... it has me terrified. Mainly because my boyfriend is southern and the slightest hint of tired southern stereotyping causes him to go apoplectic and I just don't need to deal with that (again). Borat made him spit nails.

What worries me here with regards to that is Woody's not above relying on tired stereotypes even recently - the only reason the Latin Lover and Fiery Latina stereotypes Woody made Bardem and Cruz play in VCB worked was that those actors made something out of them that in my opinion wasn't really on the page. So let's hope his actors are up to the challenge this go around then. I don't need to dodge spit nails anymore!

Joe: If we all share the same Woody Allen blind spot (as I do as well), how the hell did this movie make our list? Not that I'm not looking forward to it, but that was before I learned that Larry David, and not the delectable Henry Cavil, would be playing the lead. Because, silly me, why WOULDN'T Larry David be the perfect romantic counterpart for Evan Rachel Wood? (Although at the rate she's going lately...) Every time I think Woody's going to allow me to forget his creepy and gross relationship with women, he has to go and pull one of these. Anyway, Larry David teaming up with Woody Allen seems like a clash of similar styles -- kind of like if Woody had cast Mel Brooks in his movies twenty years or so ago. How much "Jewy Old Curmudgeon" humor can the South be expected to handle?

On the other hand: Patty Clarkson. Oh, okay. I'm in.

Fox: Speaking of Woody's "gross relationship with women", he may be pushing the "little girl" thing a bit too much by giving Evan Rachel pig tails and color clashing outfits. I mean, in that first still she looks like she's twelve! Maybe he saw her in thirteen and got inspired.

JA, I share in your boyfriend's nail spitting fits. I mean, I'm from "Texas", not the South (we think we're special!), but Southern characters in films is something I think filmmakers continually get wrong. (Though, a shout out to Jeff Nichols for getting it right in Shotgun Stories). I hope Woody doesn't add on to that long line of failures.

And, Nathaniel, at least Hollywood Ending had that shot of Woody falling from the rafters. That had me howling and made putting up with the movie's other weaknesses worth it.

Whitney: Maybe it made our list because I put it up there pretty high. I've got a little bit of a thing for old Jewish men and Larry David is my favorite. I might be the only one in the world that thinks he's so sexy. Yep. Sexy.

Joe: Well, you and Evan Rachel Wood, hopefully.

In case you missed any entries they went like so...
We Can't Wait:
#1 Inglourious Basterds, #2 Where the Wild Things Are, #3 Fantastic Mr. Fox,
#4 Avatar, #5 Bright Star, #6 Shutter Island, #7 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
#8 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, #9 Nailed,
#10 Taking Woodstock,
#11 Watchmen, #12 The Hurt Locker, #13 The Road, #14 The Tree of Life
#15 Away We Go, #16 500 Days of Summer, #17 Drag Me To Hell,
#18 Whatever Works, #19 Broken Embraces, #20 Nine (the musical)
intro (orphans -didn't make group list)



Sally Belle said... least Evan Rachel Wood is from the south. She must have some knowledge of southern girls.

I've never thought of Larry David as an, unless he's playing is worrisome.

Clarkson, Begley, Jr. and Mckean are all bonuses.

The buzz out here is that the film is very funny, and vintage Woody.

I'm hoping that is true.

Anonymous said...

John Cusack was Woody Allen!

Matt said...

Anything with Larry David is a must see for me.

cal roth said...

a) I love Allen's proxies, including Branagh. They're so funny and irritating, like Allen himself (only Ferrel was bad), and in a younger body we can see old Allen stories without saying "That woman would never sleep with a 60yo guy".

b) I love Larry David.

c) Scarlett >>>>>> Evan Rachel Wood

Alex in Movieland said...

this looks fun & colorful, but I don't really like the cast. except for Patty, of course.

and, come onnnnnn... Rebecca Hall = obvious Woody Allen role. neurotic, stiff, sexually frustrated. all her lines from the first 30 minutes were like written for himself.

Tim said...

There is not another filmmaker on God's green Earth that I'd give so many free passes to as Allen (not only do I own Hollywood Ending, it's not even the worst film of his in my collection), but I am positively terrified of this one. It's a combination of "no way does Larry David's style mesh with Woody's" and "really, aren't we done with that young woman/old man routine yet?" Of course, I'll still be there opening day.


tim -- you took the words out of my mouth (except for the "in my collection" part. I can't rewatch his bad ones. and for my money the NADIR and possibly the only one I wish I'd never seen was CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION. it literally hurt my soul. Like it was destroying my love of cinema (because Woody was once my favorite director of all time)

sally i hope this buzz of which you speak is true because like many people with blind Woody spots i'll see them the first week they're out. *i'm not sure what happened to me with SCassandra's Dream. It's the only one i missed in 25 years. how weird is that?

Fox said...

Sally & Tim-

You bring up great points about Larry David only being able to "play himself" and wondering if Woody's style can "mesh" with Larry's.

The reason I'm hopeful, is that Woody always plays himself when he appears in his films, and when he isn't, his surrogate is just mimicing him. So that would be to Larry's advantage.

Plus, I would disagree a bit with Tim about their styles not being too similar. I mean, they both have that self-deprecating, nervous Jew thing. Larry is defintely more angry and confrontational while Woody is timid, but I think they're in the same ballpark.

Bryan said...

I don't think I can get over the "eeew" factor on this one.

Garen said...

Alex in Movieland, I agree with you completely that Rebecca Hall was the Woody. It was one of the first things I remarked when I left the theater. Her stuttering uncertainty is what drew me to the initial comparison.


hmmm. methinks someone needs to reinterpret/think about VCB with men in the scarlett & rebecca roles. maybe the movie doesn't come under the misogyny labels then?

woodstock said...

there you go, this would be my #1 if i had a list. an allen movie is always an event for me - i HAVE to stop my life to see it! if i have to travel, i'll travel [the town i live's cinema sucks!], his movies are one of the few things i buy tickets instead of ciggies. so, like i said on the pedro post, i already love this film.

as a non-american i think all these american stereotypes very funny. and considering allen's comedies are mostly sharply sarcastic, i don't think he'll care much about running out of the stereotype - unless he surprises us all.

Michael said...

Woody can do no wrong. Even his lesser efforts have their qualities.

So of course I'm looking forward to Whatever Works. It will also be great to see Woody return to New York. And I can't wait to see Evan Rachel Wood in this.

abstew said...

i don't know. somewhere along the way evan rachel wood went from promising young actor to, really? is that all we're gonna get from you?
maybe it was marilyn manson.
maybe it was the film version of RUNNING WITH SCISSORS (i, for one, can never see another slow motion scene set to 70's music without wanting to pick up said scissors and cut someone. mainly ryan murphy for making such a crap film.)
but like natalie portman, they hit their peak too soon. and maybe its not that she's bad now, but she was just so good at a very young age that she has nowhere else to go.
i haven't given up hope. and perhaps working with woody will be the inspiration she needs. but in the back of my head i know she'll never reach that ONCE AND AGAIN level any time soon.

woodstock said...

yeah i forgot to comment about ERW. people here in brasil worshiped "thirteen" - while i only loved holy hunter of course [although i do think it's good movie] - so i never liked rachel wood that much. and after "across the universe" and the whole marilyn mason thing she just annoys me. let's see if woody can change my mind.

aaaaaaand i forgot to say how excited i got in knowing kristen johnston is in it. i mean her lexi featherston in "sex and the city" was always a marvel to watch.

Wayne B. said...

Well Abstew, I'm going to respectfully disagree with your point that E.R Wood might have peaked too soon. She has been a working actress for 14 years, she's now 21. Maybe she's experiencing some creative burnout and isn't challenging herself as a new hungry actress might. At 21 you're really trying to figure yourself out ( I mean "you" as in the universal "you"), and at that age you can end up stretching yourself thin trying to achieve all your goals all at once. I think about her changing of her physical looks, the record deal, M.Manson, rumors of Broadway. It all seems like she's an average twenty-something trying new things, sometimes unsuccessfully, to gain a stronger sense of self/identity. I think all these experiences are going to strengthen and revitalize her, at the same time improve her acting since she'll have more varied life experience to draw upon. "Whatever Works" and "Bronte" will hopefully help illustrate the point I'm trying to make which is that her peak hasn't come yet, she's gonna surprise movie- goers again. Of course I've never met the girl and I could be completly wrong! LOL

BTW, how awesome is that W.Allen has P.Clarkson appearing again. Loved her since I first saw her in the green mile, she is going to be legendary someday.


woodstock thanks for the reminder of Kristen Johnson on SatC... how great was that cameo? so great that everyone still talks about it.


also Woodstock... don't you think P Clarkson would be a great lead for a Woody Allen feature.

I really wish he'd give the young girls a rest because think of the AMAZING work he's done in the past with older lead actresses.

give me another INTERIORS or ANOTHER WOMAN or ALICE soon.

anywone with me on this?

Herzog said...

A few things...

1. Unlike other WA films were he got paired with younger women with no major reason (Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Shue, etc) In Whatever Works the relationship between Larry and Evan is supposed to be odd. THAT'S the COMEDY in it. That's why Patty Clarkson's character (like almost every other commenter that gets "disgusted" by the fact they're both together) wants her daughter to dump Larry. That's the conflict in the film.

2. Woody's body of work is not based on realism. He's a romantic. He idealizes cities and characters. So forget about an "accurate" or "fair" representation of the southern characters. To quote Allen: "My heroes don't come from life, but from their mythology" The genius of Allen is that through stereotypes he talks about life itself.

3. Larry's character in the film is supposed to be angry (Ebenezer-Scrooge kind of character). So it fits his acting style.

Herzog said...

Yes Nathaniel, Patty Clarkson would make a great leading character in a WA film.

But the one I would love to return and have a leading role is Dianne Wiest. I would kill for that.

Catherine said...

I am super skeeved out by this.

And YES Nathaniel! I especially love Another Woman and I'd love for him to go down that path again.

J.L said...

Wonder if Evan Rachel Wood can get any award attention for this?

Cagatay said...

Just popping my head in to say that Cassandra's Dream (and Colin Farrell in it) is extremely underrated. Kthxbye.

Fox said...


I totally agree. I thought Colin Farrell was amazing in Cassandra's Dream. I think the film is superior to VCB, yet the latter gets all the love. (I think VCB is pretty bad myself).

Paul Outlaw said...


1) Evan Rachel Wood is one of the best things about The Wrestler.

2) Mia Farrow was always an amazing Woody Allen proxy, especially in Alice.

Wayne B. said...

NATHANIEL, just a quick question, if you could fantasy-cast "Interiors" with current actresses, who would get which role?


wayne b. ohmyword. that's not a "quick question" that's a toughie!

Wayne B. said...

LOL sorry I'm a fan of the fantasy casting game, food for thought I guess.