Whatever Works at Ziegfeld

Woody Allen‘s Whatever Works, which opened the Tribeca Film Festival this evening, is a kind of dry farce that isn’t naturalistic for a second and is basically about manner and whimsy and bile, and it certainly doesn’t go for broke. But it’s fairly enjoyable. It’s sometimes hilarious, especially when it rips into idiocy and thoughtlessness among the populace, and particularly red-state characters and values. It contains some wonderful zingers including a beautiful anti-NRA joke — if only Charlton Heston had lived to hear it! And a gem about automatic toilets, and another about Barack Obama and taxis.

(l. to r.) 42West partner Leslee Dart, Woody Allen, Soon-Yi Previn.

But it’s also partly stiff and unconvincing and perhaps a bit too mean-spirited, even for a film about a bitter misanthrope. And yet it turns around and goes easy at the end, which I oddly liked and didn’t like at the same time. It sure as hell isn’t about realism, and yet the fakeness of Whatever Works is pleasing. And I was often delighted that the people-are-no-damn-good humor is as scalding as it is.


Whatever Works star Larry David outside Ziegfeld following Tribeca Film Festival opening-night screening.

Set in lower Manhattan, Whatever Works is about a unlikely “comfort” affair (as opposed to a genuine love affair) between a grumpy genius mathematician (Larry David) and a bright but uneducated Southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood) that reminded me at times of Annie Hall, but only somewhat. Think of that one scene in Hannah and Her Sisters when Max Von Sydow, playing a cynical painter, rails against money-mad Christian preachers, and then multiply it 100 times and then make it a bit meaner.


Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert DeNiro, wife Grace Hightower.

But what the characters say and finally do in Whatever Works isn’t cause for anyone’s misanthropy. The story is about people changing and adapting and going with the flow, and it ends on a gracious and generous note.

Sony Classics co-chiefs Michael Barker (l.) and Tom Bernard (r.) flanking David.

I’m too whipped to write further but I’l jump into this tomorrow morning.


Allen, Soon-Yi Previn.

79 thoughts on “Whatever Works at Ziegfeld

  1. “Where the white women at?”

    And speaking of skin color, why does Larry David look like a New Jersey teenager?

  2. I react to college-striped ties like Wells on double chins. Woody looks like he’s the senile grandpa of Andy from The Office.

    Soon-Yi and LD look good though!

  3. Woody Allen is the oldest comedic genius in this country and he should be treated like it. I don’t really care that he married his daughter. If people knew all the intimate details of Philip Roth’s life then wouldn’t talk about how he deserves a Nobel Prize. No one has replaced him yet. Because if someone had we still wouldn’t need him around. He is one of the most important writers of the last 50 years. He has a singular philosophy and take on life. No one looked at the world the way he did before he did. One day someone will come along to pick up where he left off, and it will be the birth of a legend. You will know who this person is because you will hear it. Your ears will ring. But, still, there is something about Woody Allen that is unseemly. The fact that he would agree with me about that is what makes him a master.

  4. Hot showers and a cigarette make me feel very grandiose. I feel like I want to get zapped into this computer along with the rest of you. So we can all meet in the center of grid made from neon green lights. That’s where we will all take off our clothes and touch each other’s bodies and souls. All to a soundtrack featuring such artists as Simply Saucer, American Death Ray, Battleship, Magnolia Electric Company, Warmer Milks, Black Dice, Rocket from the Tombs, The Real Kids, The Dictators, Space Needle, Galaxie 500, Sonic’s Rendevous, and The Mummies. Because the Earth is alive. And it doesn’t want to be cleaned up.

  5. Ray, any young girl who has been taught how to fuck by a 60 year old existentialist is a young girl you want to keep around. I bet Soon-Yi makes Sasha Grey look like Rachel Ray.

  6. Milkman is quite correct in his assessment of Woody Allen but doesn’t go far enough. Woody is one of the world’s true geniuses, producing a body of work that is both profound and enormously influential (Judd Apatow for one owes his career to him, as does Charlie Kaufman). For me, he’s up there with Shakespeare.

    But what hope is there when someone as intelligent as Milkman perpetuates the myth that Woody got involved with his daughter, adopted or otherwise? Disgraceful.

  7. Milkman you really think Woody brings it?

    I imagine the following to be true:

    Woody’s pale skinny corpse awkwardly thrusts in and out 5-6 times. Soon Yi lays motionless on her back with eyes starting at ceiling wondering how she ever got here. Woody finishes, slowly climbs down off of bed and mutters to himself as he towels off in bathroom. Soon Yi turns to side and closes eyes, thinking of better days as a kid (the pre-Woody kid version).

  8. But he did, didn’t he, Steven. I mean, what am I making up? I don’t understand. Mia adopted her. He helped raise her from the time she was a child. Then he fell in love with her and married her. What part am I getting wrong?

  9. I’m glad berkguru spends his nights thinking of post-coital Soon Yi laying there helplessly like the sniper at the end of FULL METAL JACKET.

    Let it be said when MilkMan is on fire he is on fire. If there were any justice that retort would have killed D.Z., and me.

  10. MilkMan, he didn’t help raise her. In fact, Mia herself has pointed how uninterested Woody was in her kids (apart from the ones he adopted with her). From Soon-Yi’s point of view, he was her Mom’s boyfriend, but was never a father figure to her.

  11. Milkman: Actually, there was more controversy over his decision for him to play a blind director in Hollywood Ending, as Troma fans know that’s the same gimmick in Terror Firmer.

    Anyway, as long as Allen didn’t rape Soon-Yi after giving her qualudes, I’ll let it go.

  12. Hey rr3333 and the rest of you stupid jackasses: If you’re going to make jokes from fifteen years ago, at least know what the fuck you’re talking about. Woody didn’t marry or sleep with his daughter. I know others have tried to explain this already but let’s make it very clear for the slower children:

    Did you notice Soon-Yii’s last name is “Previn”? That’s because she was adopted by Mia Farrow and her former husband Andre Previn. Get it? She was not adopted, or raised, by Woody Allen. Woody was not romantically involved with her until she was 21 (or older). What he did to Farrow was pretty shitty, but no worse than your typical adulterous shenanigans.

    I know most people here could care less and just want to talk about the films, but it’s ignorant fools like you that keep these exaggerated versions of the truth alive. Find something else to make fun of, because this topic is old.

    And for the record, Woody didn’t molest his children either– that bitter harridan Farrow made accusations that none of the three child psychologists called in to examine them could find any evidence of.

  13. Milkman: Actually, there was more controversy over his decision for him to play a blind director in Hollywood Ending, as Troma fans know that’s the same gimmick in Terror Firmer.

    Wow you sure know a lot about shitty movies, everyone’s really impressed over here

  14. Come on, MilkMan, are you really this uninformed? Woody Allen And Mia Farrow were never married. In fact, they didn’t even live together.

    If he is to be criticised, it’s for having an affair with his lover’s adopted daughter at a time when his relationship with the former was winding down. An unpleasant situation, yes, but a trifle compared to the kind of thing that’s traditionally gone on in showbiz circles.

    Lazarus, for me the “ignorant fools” are those so-called “journalists” who to this day still refer to Soon-Yi as Woody’s step-daughter. They’re the ones who are to blame for perpetuating the smears.

  15. MilkMan is the Woody Allen of internet blog-commenting, even if he’s presumably had fewer celebrity women in the sack. And I say that as someone who worships at Allen’s altar.

  16. From the sescription this sounds like Woody Allen’s equivalent of Charlie Chaplin’s “A King In New York,” although not quite as bitter.

  17. “…but no worse than your typical adulterous shenanigans.”

    I was with you until that. Come on. Cheating on your wife with a stranger, and cheating on your wife with her daughter are two quite different things.

  18. “For the umpteenth time: Mia wasn’t Woody’s wife. He never married her and never even lived with her. ”

    Thank god she had standards.

  19. okay, he banged his GIRLFRIEND’S daughter. that makes it better.

    actually, it’s pretty awesome. any howard stern fans here?

    “if you had a hot gook daughter, you’d bang her too.”

  20. Woody’s a genius … no question. Some of my favorite movies are Woody Allen films.

    Doesn’t negate the fact that he’s a sick individual.

    Just because this world is filled with lots of sick individuals doesn’t make what Woody did even just a little acceptable.

    The fact that this story is 15 years old isn’t relevant. The story could be 50 years old or 50 days old.

    SICK AND PERVERTED IS SICK AND PERVERTED.

  21. “If he is to be criticised, it’s for having an affair with his lover’s adopted daughter at a time when his relationship with the former was winding down.”

    Wait, didn’t he take nude pictures of her when she was underage?

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  23. Lone Scherfig’s An Education, a coming-of-age period drama set in 1961 London, is the absolute shit — the best film of the Sundance Film Festival, a finely tuned and deeply engaging film by regular popcorn-watching standards, an award-calibre drama that will definitely be in contention at the end of the year, and a movie that has launched a genuine movie star in an old-fashioned and yet very new-fashioned sense — 23 year-old Carey Mulligan. master degree adult education AND associate degree Teaching learning AND associate degree computer science

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  24. Woody Allen (born Allen Stewart Konigsberg; December 1, 1935) is an American screenwriter, film director, actor, comedian, writer, musician, and playwright.

    Allen’s distinctive films, which run the gamut from dramas to screwball sex comedies, have made him a notable American director. He is also distinguished by his rapid rate of production and his very large body of work.[1] Allen writes and directs his movies and has also acted in the majority of them. For inspiration, Allen draws heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema, among a wealth of other fields of interest.

    Allen developed a passion for music early on and is a celebrated jazz clarinetist. What began as a teenage avocation has led to regular public performances at various small venues in his hometown of Manhattan, with occasional appearances at various jazz festivals. Allen joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Funeral Ragtime Orchestra in performances that provided the film score for his 1973 comedy Sleeper, and performed in a rare European tour in 1996, which became the subject of the documentary Wild Man Blues.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woody_Allen)

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  26. Plus, just because I can’t stand Jeff Well’s fixation on body weight and his tendency to kick people off who make good points (like the g/uy in the Instant Soul Read thread), doesn’t mean I think he should be electrocuted or poor.

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  27. But it’s also partly stiff and unconvincing and perhaps a bit too mean-spirited, even for a film about a bitter misanthrope. And yet it turns around and goes easy at the end, which I oddly liked and didn’t like at the same time. It sure as hell isn’t about realism, and yet the fakeness of Whatever Works is pleasing. And I was often delighted that the people-are-no-damn-good humor is as scalding as it is.

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