Whatever Works kind of works

My brother and I have seen two movies together since I moved to New York City, both by Woody Allen, both at the independent Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Last August, we saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and last night we saw Whatever Works. As the prolific writer/director’s newest feature was about to begin, my brother said “Two New York Jews watching a Woody Allen movie on the Upper West Side.” With the starring role played by Larry David, it was truly a movie for people like us.

Yet, like most Woody Allen movies I have seen in recent years, I have had to prepare myself to be disappointed by self-conscious and unnatural dialogue as well as the inevitable May December romance. It always comes off a little creepy when the old neurotic, Jewish character dates the beautiful young woman (almost always gentile) in these movies, not just because of the age difference but because of the way the relationship depends on the younger woman revering the intellect of the older man.

Whatever Works did not bother me too much for these reasons, though. Maybe this was because Larry David’s intellectual wasn’t a lecherous character but rather almost asexual. Or maybe because I don’t think Woody Allen’s script actually bore out that he thought this kind of relationship, born perhaps of his fantasy (and since he started things up with his step-daughter, his real life), is functional.

No, the real fantasy in Whatever Works was the way Allen portrayed dim, God-fearing Southerners who come to New York City and are inspired to shed their small-minded ways and their NRA memberships. I guess this is the ultimate fantasy for many of us who live here.

Overall, I would give the movie a Meh, but an entertaining Meh. I liked Vicky Cristina Barcelona a lot better, though.

Gripe of the day

This may seem totally random, but in my mind’s auto-pilot of thought digressions, I began thinking about Upper West Side New York, where I was this weekend and where I will likely live next year.  Then, a song called “Trois Gymnopadie” by Erik Satie shuffled on my iPod, and I started thinking of Woody Allen, who set an ’80s movie of his called Another Woman to that music.  That led me to recalling Woody Allen movies set in the Upper West Side (most of his movies?) and thinking how utterly charmed the lives of their characters are.  The more Woody Allen I see, the more I find him not very original, reverent of outmoded psychological theory, and totally clueless and weird about women.  I know, none of my observations are particularly original.  In any case, I find it a point of great weakness that he/his characters become physically infatuated with young, female students who are infatuated with his–I would argue wanting–intellect and the man lacks any sense of how psychologically problematic this is even though he is always ruminating on his neuroses.  I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.  Maybe I just think there only need be one movie about it rather than dozens.


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