Sometimes, positive rapport
with a filmmaker's work can dissolve into the feeling of a kick in the
crotch, thanks to a particularly insulting offering. Woody Allen wrote
the script for Whatever Works in the 1970s for Zero Mostel (the
lead is now played by Larry David), but it's an affront in any decade.
Woody has earned first-name recognition for so often displaying
razor-sharp perception and a vibrant depth of character that borders on
the intimate and personal. As a result, his least thoughtful
efforts---of which Whatever Works is one---make you feel like a
loved one has just called you stupid. Exaggerations aside, it's
disappointing when Woody fails to find a kernel of authenticity in his
characters or stories. The film could be a fantasy about the
transformative power of love, but lands as a collection of ignorant
caricatures of Southern people, forgiving women and misanthropes. If
Public Enemies is an interesting failure, Whatever Works
is an egregious one.