Whatever Works (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 18, 2009 by  

Director/writer Woody Allen brings us a new romantic comedy but with a spin.  Larry David brings his ‘A’ game to ‘Whatever Works’ with his witty sarcasm and that neurotic style that we have been accustomed to on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and even ‘Seinfeld’.  Definitely not predictable and a Woody Allen film that is so unlike any of his previous work.  ‘Whatever Works’ is highly entertaining, fun and quite enjoyable!

Images courtesy of © 2009 Gravier Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Whatever Works


DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS HD-MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Sexual Situations, Including Dialogue, Brief Nude Images and Thematic Material)

Release Date: October 20, 2009

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Executive Producer: Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval

Co-Executive Producer: Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins

Co-Executive Producer: Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins

Producer: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum

Cinematography by Harris Savides

Edited by Alisa Lepselter

Casting by Ali Farrell, Laura Rosenthal, Juliet Taylor

Production Design by Santo Loquasto

Set Decoration by Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Suzy Benzinger


Larry David as Boris Yellnikoff

Evan Rachel Wood as Melodie St. Ann Celestine

Patricia Clarkson as Marietta

Conleth Hill as Leo Brockman

Ed Begley Jr. as John

Adam Brooks as Friend #1

Lyle Kanouse as Friend #2

Michael McKean as Friend #3

Carolyn McCormick as Jessica

Christopher Evan Welch as Howard

Henry Cavill as Randy James

Whatever Works explores the relationship between a crotchety misanthrope, Boris (Larry David) and a naïve, impressionable young runaway from the south, Melody (Evan Rachel Wood). When Melody’s uptight parents arrive in New York to rescue her, they are quickly drawn into wildly unexpected romantic entanglements. Everyone discovers that finding love is just a combination of lucky chance and appreciating the value of “whatever works.”

Director/writer Woody Allen brings us a new romantic comedy but with a spin.  Larry David brings his ‘A’ game to ‘Whatever Works’ with his witty sarcasm and that neurotic style that we have been accustomed to on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and even ‘Seinfeld’.  Definitely not predictable and a Woody Allen film that is so unlike any of his previous work.  ‘Whatever Works’ is highly entertaining, fun and quite enjoyable!

A Woody Allen written and directed romantic comedy that came out during the Summer of 2009, “Whatever Works” brings the creative minds of both Allen and actor/writer/producer Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Seinfeld”, “Saturday Night Live”).  The film features cinematography by Harris Savides (“Milk”, “American Gangster”, “Zodiac”, “Margot at the Wedding”) and a classic soundtrack of music from yesteryear.

The film revolves around Boris Yellnikoff (played by Larry David), an eccentric and bitter man who is a brilliant misanthrope (and a former Harvard Physicist) who almost won the Nobel Prize and now just a bitter man who complains about everything.  He can be seen ranting to his friends about life in the morning and playing (or teaching) chess as well.   But what changes Boris’s life is one night, waking up because he was annoyed by his wife and jumps out the window.  He doesn’t kill himself but he lands on a canopy and now walks with a major limp.  From that point in his life, he divorces his wife (which most guys would think would be a great wife) and secludes himself from the world and gets ticked off at anyone who is not as smart as him.

All he does is complain and bicker about the world and people and at times, he’ll look at the camera and talk to you and tell you how he is feeling (which people in streets are wondering why is he talking to himself).

Years have passed and Boris Yellnikoff is just an unpleasant man…until he discovers a 21-year-old woman named Melodie (played by Evan Rachel Wood, “Across the Universe”, “King of California”, “The Wrestler”) who is seen sleeping on his doorstep.  This angers Boris at first but Melodie’s persistence of wanting a meal becomes too much of an annoyance to him that he digresses and feeds her.  Next thing you know, the following morning she asks to stay with him temporarily until she gets a job since she just moved to the city.

Of course, Boris hates the thought of it and it doesn’t help when he thinks that she’s not too bright and constantly makes fun of her (which all his jokes go over her head) but no matter how badly he treats her or how sarcastic he is around her, she accepts him.  In fact, the longer she stays with him, she falls for him.  She falls for his intellect and doesn’t care that he is 40-years older than her.  Boris of course doesn’t believe they should be together and hopes she finds someone around her age and she does date another guy but finds him not as interesting to her like Boris.  So, the two end up getting married.

Life seems to be going good for the two as they have the same routine in their daily life but when Melodie’s mother Marietta (played by Patricia Clarkson, “Wonderland”, “Elegy”, “Six Feet Under”, “The Green Mile”) comes to visit her, she is shocked that she is dating an older man, let alone a man that she can not stand.  Marietta explains to Melodie that she has left her father John (played by Ed Begley Jr., “Gary Unmarried”, “Veronica Mars”, “St. Elsewhere”) who had an affair with her best friend.

Of course, disapproving of the man that Melodie is with, Marietta is quick to find a younger man Randy James (played by Henry Cavill, “The Tudors”) to sweep her off her feet and show that a younger woman needs a younger man.

“Whatever Works” shows us how in this world…things that were, can change in an instant.  Anything can happen, so why not try something different… whatever works.


“Whatever Works” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with an aspect ratio of 1:78:1).  For the most part, Woody Allen has found one of the most talented cinematographers around with Harris Savides.  Capturing the feel of New York City, the film looks very good and during the outdoor scenes, picture quality is quite vibrant.  There is fine layer of grain that can be seen in the picture and for the most part, picture quality for the film is very good.

For audio quality, this is another film in which Sony has elected to use English 5.1 DTS-HD MA instead of Dolby TrueHD.   The film is mostly a conversational, dialogue driven film, so it’s front and center channel driven.  But what I do like about the film is the selection of classic jazz which gives that film a certain romanticized feel and Groucho Marx tunes to really set the mood.  But for a romantic comedy, audio quality is satisfactory for this style of film and it works.

Subtitles are provided in English and English SDH.


“Whatever Works” Blu-ray comes with the original theatrical trailer and trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures Classics titles.

As a fan of Woody Allen films (classic and modern) and a big fan of Larry David, I just felt that the combination of these two individuals would definitely bring out a hilarious style of film that we are used to seeing from both men.  From Woody Allen’s approach on romance and relationships but also Larry David’s deadpan, ranting style of humor.

For Woody Allen, it’s quite interesting to see him have the character of Boris Yellnikoff addressing the audience and allowing Larry David to be Larry David.  But Allen fans, you will still have that classic Woody Allen style as the film does showcase New York City and how Manhattan can change one’s soul (in this case, for Melodie and her parents).

Although not your typical romantic comedy, as Boris is not exactly a redeeming character who is going to change his life or the way he lives his life, it’s definitely something fresh and different.

Larry David plays the part quite effectively and Evan Rachel Wood definitely plays the naivete as the small town girl living in a big city and does a fantastic job.  After seeing her in “The Wrestler” and “Across the Universe”, it was quite interesting to see her be the main female lead and of course, seeing her character of Melodie have this relationship with an older man.  Sure, we are accustomed to seeing younger women who date older men for their money (when shown on the big screen) but in “Whatever Works”, you truly believe that she has fallen in love with him despite how sarcastic he is with her.

The message is quite clear with the film.  We all have a life and we meet people in life who will be with us…may it be for a short time or forever but to make use of that time and do whatever you can…whatever works.  But the film is anything but predictable.  Because the way the film is structured, there is no way to know how this film would play itself out in the end.  Especially for each of the film’s main characters.

As for the Blu-ray, for a film like “Whatever Works”, the picture and audio quality is satisfactory for this style of film.  It’s not going to utilize the whole soundscape in your home theater system but what you do get, works for this film.  The only thing that I did feel that was missing is the special features.  I didn’t expect an audio commentary from Woody Allen but I was hoping for something other than the trailer.  But then again, we were left with hardly any features on the Blu-ray release of Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” as well.

Overall, the Blu-ray release doesn’t contain any bells or whistles in terms of extra content but for Woody Allen films, it’s the film that we come to appreciate and see what he has coming up next.  Larry David is definitely a choice that I didn’t see coming for a Woody Allen film but with how the film plays itself out, I can’t see anyone else but David playing that role.

If you are an avid fan of Woody Allen or Larry David’s work, this is a film you will definitely want to give a try!

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