Whatever Works (2009) Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen's Whatever Works focuses on Boris Yelnikoff, a grumpy and neurotic professor who doesn't really like people, has panic attacks about dying and berates the children who he teaches chess to. Boris is played by Larry David, and whilst we start off thinking that we're watching David play David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Whatever Works expands to offer quite a charming and engaging movie - a fun farce - that makes you smile.

Allen's witty script is perky and effective - Boris finds 21-year-old Southern runaway Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood)on his doorstep one night, takes reluctant pity on her, and invites her in for food and warmth. She never leaves. Evan Rachel Wood is as sweet and irresistable as ever, playing her naive character well and making Boris fall for her. They get married - this isn't a spoiler, as there is so much more to come in the film and Allen focuses on how New York changes people for the better, personal growth and being true to yourself. Let's just say, the ending gives really good pay-off and makes you feel very warm inside.

The direction of Whatever Works is interesting - Boris does some 'to camera' scenes, which at first seem out of place - "...why do you want to hear my story? I'm not a likeable person?...", but they then fit in very well with the dialogue and storyline, with us coming to expect them. The film itself is acted like a play - again, a strange thing to get used to but the characters bounce off each other and the dialogue is sharp and comedic. There's some great lines and scenes in it - Melodie's mother to her "...Boris is not like a real husband. He's more like an outpatient and you're his keeper...", and "...He was the greatest runway model Versace ever had..." - a chubby Howard Cummings (Christopher Evan Welch) about his ex boyfriend.

This film won't be for the tastes of all - you've got to 'get' Larry David to like him, plus the feeling of it being 'on stage' may be pretentious to some. On the whole though, Allen's vision of New York and its compelling inhabitants is once again absorbing, clever and nicely done.

4/5 hotdogs