A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this tepid Woody Allen comedy tackles mature themes like threesomes, homosexual relationships, and infidelity, though there's little actual nudity or explicit sexual content. The main character tries to commit suicide (played lightly) but isn't successful. The language tends toward the insulting at times, but it isn't overly coarse; expect a little bit of drinking and smoking as well. The humor will most likely appeal to grown-ups or precocious older teens -- don't expect this to be on many kids' must-see list.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David), a former physicist with suicidal tendencies whose attempt to jump out the window fails miserably, finds his world's axis tilted when he meets and improbably marries a very young, nubile optimist, Melody St. Anne Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood). She's a recent transplant from the South and a willing student of Yellnikoff's world view; after initially resisting, he grudgingly falls for her charms. Though he never quite seems certain it'll last, Melody's mother's (Patricia Clarkson) arrival at their doorstep hastens the end. Spurned by her husband (Ed Begley Jr.), she's primed for change and thinks that Melody, whom she's convinced married too hastily, ought to be, too.
Is it any good?
Sadly, WHATEVER WORKS doesn't work. Though Allen's exquisite turns of phrase still amuse, the film feels dated, of a time when threesomes and May-December affairs still shocked (not surprisingly, the script is one that was initially written decades ago). David, supremely entertaining in Curb Your Enthusiasm, is wrong here, even if he is funny. Allen's lost and brittle male protagonists need vulnerability for the story to work -- think Alvy in Annie Hall -- and vulnerable David most certainly isn't. Plus, there's little to no chemistry between him and Wood (they barely hug).
But here's the biggest rub: Allen's movies are always of their place -- New York in the lion's share of his canon and, more recently, London and Barcelona. But the New York we see here seems robbed of energy and inspiration ... kind of like the movie itself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the story says about relationships. Why does Melody seek the company of a much older man -- and vice versa? Is there anything wrong with a younger person taking up with a much older partner? How do movies usually portray that kind of relationship?
Fans of Woody Allen can also discuss how this movie compares to his other films. What do his movies tend to have in common?
- In theaters: June 19, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2009
- Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David, Patricia Clarkson
- Director: Woody Allen
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual situations including dialogue, brief nude images and thematic material