Follow TV Tropes


Film / Whatever Works

Go To

"That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works."
Boris Yelnikoff

Whatever Works is a 2009 romantic comedy movie written and directed by Woody Allen, starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Begley Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavill, Conleth Hill, Michael McKean and John Gallagher Jr..

Boris Yelnikoff (David) is a cynical chess teacher and former Columbia professor in quantum mechanics. One night, he comes home to find Melody (Wood), a simpleminded 21-year-old, lying on his doorstep. He reluctantly lets her in for a meal, and she goes on to tell him her story. Seems she was raised by Christian fundamentalist parents in Mississippi and ran away from them. She asks if she can stay the night, which Boris eventually allows, and she stays with him while she looks for a job. Melody develops a crush on Boris despite their age difference and their varying cultures and intelligence. After a while, Boris realizes that he loves her and they get married.

After a year passes, her mother Marietta (Clarkson) finds Melody, having thought Melody had been kidnapped, and explains that her husband John (Begley) left her. Over the next few weeks, being exposed to New York changes Marietta and she starts experimenting with the arts and exotic new habits. However, after she meets Boris she is disappointed with him, so she slyly decides to recruit Randy Lee James (Cavill) to end Melody's marriage.

This film features examples of:

  • Audience? What Audience?: Boris is capable of Breaking the Fourth Wall, and observes his interactions with the characters who don't know they're in a movie, much to their bewilderment.
  • Bookends: The film opens and closes with Boris openly and deliberately speaking to the audience.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the beginning and ending of the film, Boris turns his friend's attentions to the audience watching them. Some people don't believe him, others wave.
  • The Charmer: Randy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Boris.
    Boris Yelnikoff: The human race. They've had to install automatic toilets in public restrooms, because people can't be entrusted to flush a toilet.
  • The Ditz: Melody is quite simpleminded.
  • Easy Evangelism: Marietta and John, who at first are conservative Christians, are convinced to become liberal seculars with astonishing ease, with the implication that even the briefest exposure to the cosmopolitan nature of New York City will turn even the staunchest conservative Christian into a liberal secular humanist.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Boris notices that there's an audience watching him, to whom he speaks to.
  • The Fundamentalist: When Melody tells her story to Boris, she says that she was born to fundamentalist parents in Mississippi, and when we met them, they certainly fit the description. Spending time in New York City, however, made them completely shed their mindsets and wholeheartedly adopted way of life and values of the city: Marietta turns out to have a knack for artistic photography and even lives in an open relationship with two men, and John comes to terms with the fact that he's secretly gay.
  • May–December Romance: Melody is much, much younger than Boris, whic doesn't stop them from getting married.
  • New Year Has Come: Boris hosts a New Year's party at the film's end.
  • No Fourth Wall: The film opens and closes with Boris openly and deliberately speaking to the audience, fully aware they are in a movie theater. This is Played for Laughs, as it seems only he is capable of seeing and speaking to the audience. In the opening scene, it even shows that from the point of view of everyone else, he's speaking to no one. A woman shuffles her child away, fearing he is insane. He explains this in the end by pointing out that he's the only person who can see "the whole picture".
  • Polyamory: Marietta ends up in an open relationship with Boris' friend, Leo, and Leo's business partner, Morgenstern.
  • Shout-Out: The opening credits are accompanied by a song from the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers.
  • Southern Belle: Melody is a beautiful young woman from Mississippi.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Randy is played by Henry Cavill who is this trope incarnate.
  • This Is Reality: Boris' pals doubt of his No Fourth Wall ability.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the film, Boris says, regarding the love and happiness one can give or receive, that "whatever works."
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for the film shows Boris's second suicide attempt, which occurs near the end of the movie.