Larry David, of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, is an acquired taste that I no doubt won’t ever wholly embrace. His playing of himself on his hit HBO series grates not only on my nerves but also threatens to drill through my bone to the very marrow, which I can’t honestly say I would donate to him if he needed it to save his life.
That being said, I had far less difficulty than you might imagine giving Woody Allen’s latest film, Whatever Works, the benefit of the doubt despite the presence of David as Boris Yellnikoff, a pompous boor so superior to life and the living that he attempts — twice no less — to off himself (curses that he fails both times).
I found myself hanging in there with Boris, though, because at his core he suffers from little more than an acute case of playa hating. His encounters with a cast of wild and wooly types, specifically the ravenously dim Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), set him on course to re-evaluate life.
Whatever Works marks a return to New York for Allen after roaming abroad with Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and the homecoming finds him digging up an old screenplay he shelved back in 1977. Surprisingly, I couldn’t suppress my longing for Allen in front of the camera. Everything works as well as it can, but Whatever Works could certainly have been something else. (tt stern-enzi) Grade: B-