WHATEVER WORKS

Woody Allen triumphantly returns to filming in New York, telling a familiar story but with a wry new maturity. Larry David plays an irascible self-proclaimed genius, now living a bohemian lifestyle in the Village teaching small children how to play chess. A vagrant girl (Evan Rachel Wood) asks him for a place to stay and he reluctantly brings her home only to fill her head with his misanthropic, neurotic view of the universe. They surprisingly fall for each other and marry, and then the mother (Patricia Clarkson) arrives. Wood is just a delight regurgitating (mostly mangling) her husband's rancid philosophy, and David is a perfect foil for Allen's trademark rants and raves. Despite the outrageous plot twists, the film ends on a ruefully witty note of grace.

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