Every time Woody Allen turns a corner seemingly leaving his late career mediocrity behind, he makes something like Whatever Works, a tedious, maladroit third person comedy shooter that fails to illicit any laughs or complexities. Allen returns home to NYC, jumping back across the pond after four films set in Europe, and the shift re-reveals his greatest flaws as a comedian and filmmaker. Whatever Works blatantly exposes its reflexiveness through the biting and condescending mouth of Boris (Larry David), Allen’s stand in who consistently addresses the camera breaking the fourth wall with reckless abandon, gleefully preaching contradiction and irony. Much like Boris and his legions of “cretons”, Whatever Works comes across as plodding, overblown, and despite many interesting subjects, completely idiotic. Allen’s ramblings about love, fate, tragedy, and comedy are astonishingly stale, lacking immediacy in areas that demand passion and reflection.
Where Vicky Christina Barcelona revels in the sensual nature of the environment and languishing beauty of its character’s dilemma’s, Whatever Works painfully charts the ideologies and “developments” of simplistic, obvious characters looking for answers in world that can’t provide any. It’s the same old bullshit from Woody, and his inability to mix up his auteurist vision makes me yearn for his days of glaring originality and brilliant nuance, the days of Hannah and Her Sisters, Another Woman, and The Purple Rose of Cairo. VCB shows signs of that Woody re-emerging, but the likes of Scoop and Whatever Works beat down the hope of him ever regaining his master status again. I’ve never felt this weary with one of my favorite all-time directors.